Climate activists blockade Citigroup HQ in NYC to demand banking giant stop funding fossil fuels

Citibank is the world’s second-largest funder of coal, oil and gas.

56
SOURCEDemocracy Now!

Hundreds of climate activists gathered at the global headquarters of Citigroup in New York on Wednesday to demand the banking giant stop financing fossil fuel companies. The protests come on the heels of a first-of-its-kind Earth Day hearing where environmental activists from around the world gathered in New York this week to condemn what they call Citigroup’s environmental racism. Citibank is the world’s second-largest funder of coal, oil and gas. “They always say, ‘We care about the planet.’ … But actions speak louder than words,” says Alice Hu, climate campaigner for New York Communities for Change. “Citibank has poured over $332 billion into fossil fuels since the Paris Agreements were signed in 2015.” We also speak with Roishetta Ozane, a Black environmental leader from Sulphur, Louisiana, who has been leading the fight against the expansion of Citigroup-funded liquified natural gas projects in her community. She says she has seen the health impacts of such projects on her own family. “I’m fighting not only for myself and my community, but for my children. And by fighting for my children, I’m fighting for everyone’s children,” says Ozane.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

Climate activists are gathering at the global headquarters of Citigroup here in Manhattan to demand the bank stop financing coal, oil and gas companies. The protests come on the heels of a first-of-its-kind Earth Day hearing where environmental activists from around the world gathered in New York this week to condemn Citigroup’s environmental — what they call “environmental racism.” Citibank is the world’s second-largest funder of coal, oil and gas.

We’re joined here in our New York studio by Roishetta Ozane, a Black environmental leader from Sulphur, Louisiana, who has been leading the fight against the Citibank-funded LNG buildout in her community. She’s the founder and director of the environmental justice group The Vessel Project.

Thank you so much for being with us. Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Roishetta. We’re, in a moment, going to try to go right to that Citigroup protest in the streets. But can you explain what this gathering is about and what you’re demanding of Citigroup?

ROISHETTA OZANE: Yes. Thank you so much for having me.

It is simple. Citigroup is the largest — the second-largest financial institution that is backing liquefied natural gas projects along the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coast. And so we are here demanding that Citibank stops its financing of these projects.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And can you talk about the health issues that your own family and community have been experiencing because of the liquefied natural gas facilities in your area?

ROISHETTA OZANE: Yes. We have three of the current operating liquefied natural gas projects in our community. These projects emit things like methane and other chemical pollutions. Longtime exposure to those type of chemical releases causes things like asthma, eczema and cancer, things of which my children are suffering with. Two of my children have asthma. Some of them have eczema. My own sister is currently in remission from cancer. My son has recently been diagnosed with epilepsy. And upon traveling to a doctor out of state, we learned that the industrial pollution is causing him to have more seizures. So I’m fighting not only for myself and my community, but for my children. And by fighting for my children, I’m fighting for everyone’s children.

AMY GOODMAN: Roishetta, we’re going to go to the streets of New York now, where Alice Hu from New York Communities for Change, one of the leading organizers, is joining us from Citigroup headquarters’ main entrance. Alice, can you describe the scene there, who’s out there, and what you’re planning to do?

ALICE HU: Hundreds of protesters are out here today blocking every single entrance of Citigroup’s global headquarters right now. We’ve stopped employees from getting in the front door. We’ve stopped employees from getting in through the side doors and the back doors. The reason we’re doing that is because Citibank is the world’s second-largest funder of fossil fuels. We tried [inaudible]. We’ve tried [inaudible], sharing our stories, sharing how frontline communities are being killed by fossil fuel projects. They have not listened, which is why we’re resorting to mass, sustained, nonviolent civil disobedience to have them respond to our demands.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Alice, what is Citibank’s response?

ALICE HU: In the past, when we’ve, you know, done other protests like this, when we have sent petitions, when we’ve gotten representatives, from leaders, from community organizations, they always say, “We care about the planet. We care about your communities. We’re listening.” But actions speak louder than words. Citibank has poured over $332 billion into fossil fuels since the Paris Agreements were signed in 2015. They have not listened to us. They are not responding to our demands. And that is why we are taking the next step. We are going to sustain nonviolent civil disobedience and pressure until they listen, until they respect communities, until they stop killing us.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you — in January, the Biden administration announced a pause in reviewing applications for LNG facilities. How does this pause look on the ground right now?

ALICE HU: I think that it was a good first step. The pause needs to be made permanent. And, in fact, all fossil fuel expansion worldwide needs to stop. I think that Citibank needs to be taking cues from the climate movement, from the people on the ground who have successfully pressured Biden to make that pause happen. Citigroup needs to take the next step, as well: stop financing fossil fuels themselves, stop financing LNG expansion.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to Roishetta for a moment. What do you make of the United Nations’ warning to Citibank regarding human rights violations related to fossil fuel expansion, Roishetta?

ROISHETTA OZANE: Citibank continues to violate Indigenous rights, human rights, when they continue to fund these projects. And so, that’s why we are here. We are demanding that Citibank follow suit, follow President Biden’s start with pausing the reviewing of these applications, and stop the funding, because what we’ve learned is that if these projects are permitted, if they get the permits that they need, if they don’t have the funding or the insurance, they cannot move forward. And so, by constantly providing them money for these projects to be built, Citi is saying that they don’t care about this pause. They’re saying that, you know, they don’t care about what the U.N. is warning them. They’re going to continue to operate in the same way they’ve been operating. And that is with no care for any human being or human life or with disregard for this planet that we all share.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Roishetta, your offices in Lake Charles were severely damaged on April 10th by a tornado. And can you talk about what was lost and the fundraising that you’re involved in to rebuild The Vessel Project’s office?

ROISHETTA OZANE: Yes, of course. So, where I live, in Southwest Louisiana, we are prone to these natural disasters. But what we’ve been seeing in the last several years are climate-induced disasters because of the methane emissions coming from these LNG terminals that are in our community. Just a couple of weeks ago, Southwest Louisiana was hit by several tornadoes, one of which completely destroyed my Vessel Project office. It is a resource center. It is where we educate and empower our community to fight back against these things that are constantly coming in, harming and killing us.

We have begun collecting items to pass out to the community, because hurricane season starts June 1st. This is not even hurricane season, and we’re already seeing torrential downpours. We’re already seeing, you know, tornadoes that are coming at rates we’ve never seen before. What is this hurricane season going to look like for us this year? We were trying to prepare the community, and we lost all of those things. So, someone knows of the work that I’ve been doing and knew the things that we have been collecting in our office, and they decided to start a GoFundMe for the organization, so that we can rebuild and continue to be that resource for the community.

AMY GOODMAN: Roishetta Ozane, I want to thank you so much for being with us, founder and director of the environmental justice group The Vessel Project. And thanks to Alice Hu of New York Communities for Change, one of the leading organizers of today’s action to shut down Citigroup in New York.

When we come back, high-level migration talks between the U.S. and Cuba are being held in Washington. We’ll speak with Cuba’s deputy foreign minister. Stay with us.

FALL FUNDRAISER

If you liked this article, please donate $5 to keep NationofChange online through November.

COMMENTS