Is the Environmental Movement a big white tent?

Lennox Yearwood Jr was on his way to speak at the March for Science in DC, when something bad happened. He tells us: the March For Science in Washington DC on Earth Day, I was assaulted, roughed up, and detained by police in the shadow of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. It was not part of an action or planned civil disobedience. It was sadly a much more regular event - an interaction between police and a person of color gone very wrong.

He continues:

I was walking in the rain and carrying an umbrella down Constitution Ave. from the National Archives Building towards the Washington Monument. Constitution Ave. was closed and I was excited to see so many people out for the Science March. As I approached 14th St. on Constitution, the walk sign was on, but there was an MPD officer in the middle of street letting cars proceed across 14th so I stayed on the curb. I waited as the crossing signal turned red and then it turned back to walk, signaling clearance for all of us on the curb to cross, which we started to do.

I was the only person of color in the immediate area.

The police officer then told everyone to get out of the crosswalk. By then I was about half way across the street. I paused in the middle of the street and then decided it was easier to proceed to the other side of the street, in effect getting out of the crosswalk.

The officer then ran up to me, grabbed me forcefully by my jacket and swung me around, slamming me up against a food truck. I yelled, “What are you doing? Stop grabbing me.” He told me to stop resisting, to which I responded that I wasn’t. I dropped my umbrella, and put my hands up. I told him I was there for the Science March. He said he had to detain me because I “could be on drugs.” YES, he really said that.

Conspiracy to jay walk. It gets worse. More cops show up, more tension. Eventually it deescalates as Reverend Yearwood's identity is established. Read the whole account here.

From Think Progress:

Aside from the humiliation of getting roughed up by the police, Yearwood said he was extremely disappointed that the incident forced him to miss a speech given by Mustafa Ali, who earlier this year resigned as the head of environmental justice at the Environmental Protection Agency after a 24-year career. Ali now serves as senior vice president of climate, environmental justice, and community revitalization for the Hip Hop Caucus.
The Hip Hop Caucus, formed in 2004, seeks to connect marginalized communities with civic matters, focusing in particular on environmental issues. The environmental movement historically has been dominated by white men, although more women have claimed leadership positions over the past decade.

More at Think Progress

I have to say, that I just can't imagine this happening at the Minnesota March for Science. There is a huge overlap in who shows up at these events in the Twin Cities, and the events cover everything from economic justice to #BLM to women's' rights. It is not in the nature of our community to allow someone to be physically harassed by the police at an event like this, without comment or intervention. Our community has been tested in the past and has done OK in this area, especially since the RNC in Saint Paul when the true potential of a city-wide police state was unleashed on our community, we fought back on several fronts, and changed our culture somewhat. I don't know anything about the DC environmental community but apparently it is in need of some adjustment. Ours, here in the Twin Cities, probably does too, but this? I don't think so.


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Same thing happened ten years ago in DC to the same guy. That time his leg was broken by the cops.

Torn ligaments, not a broken leg.

"I saw how quickly they were to accept there was a person of color being detained,”

Be fair, the cops will pepper spray whites in the face from inches away if you're an environmental protester sitting down cross-legged on the floor.

What would they do if you said to them "Hey, let him go!"? What COULD you do to get them to let him go? Nothing that wouldn't get them to do as bad or worse to you, no matter your colour. Because if there's one thing the cops hate more than blacks, it's anyone disrespecting their authoritah.

Greg, this particular incident aside, it probably is a predominantly "white" movement. There's lots of environmental degradation in poor African-American communities, but, understandably, that's not the primary focus for activists.

And for those who are involved, dealing with lead poisoning is not the same kind of problem as species extinction. Not surprising that there would be some "segregation".

There's also other factors in play.

First, the USA is predominantly white. So anything grass roots and inclusive will be predominantly white.

Secondly, the pyramid of needs means that the disadvantaged have more pressing concerns with today's survival to take time worrying about tomorrow's survivability. And since black americans are poorer, they will be less capable of taking the time and effort to be concerned about the environment.

The point, as far as I see it being positive, of worrying about representation disparities is to ensure that under-represented points of view that aren't dependent on the number of people talking about it are heard as loudly as any other. A latin perspective on a situation may be different because of the cultural views compared to caucasian, but the validity of the viewpoint isn't dependent on the number of latin members appearing. When it comes to doing something, in terms of prioritisation, the number of people affected (along with the severity of the effect, and any other factors) WOULD be relevant, but the validity of the stance is not dependent on the number of voices taking that stance.