Elders arrested protesting Citibank’s billions in fossil fuel financing amid record heatwaves

Dozens of senior climate activists, including 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, arrested in New York City while highlighting Citibank’s leading role in financing fossil fuel projects amid worsening climate crisis.

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Image Credit: Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) / X

Dozens of elder climate activists, including 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, were arrested Monday in New York City while protesting Citibank’s continued financing of fossil fuel projects. The protest took place as Earth experienced what is likely to be its hottest summer on record, highlighting a worsening planetary emergency.

The group, known as Third Act, which consists mostly of members aged 60 and older, led a “funeral procession” near Citibank’s Manhattan headquarters. The demonstration was held in remembrance of senior citizens who have died during recent heatwaves and to condemn the bank for being the leading funder of fossil fuel expansion worldwide. This event is part of a series of ongoing climate protests organized by Summer of Heat.

Summer of Heat reported that McKibben was among the 46 demonstrators arrested on Monday. The campaign has now seen a total of 305 arrests in its historic series of relentless, disruptive protests aimed at stopping Wall Street’s funding of oil, coal, and gas projects.

“Older Americans are worried about growing climate extremes and how Wall Street is using their savings to harm the planet and their grandchildren’s future,” said Summer of Heat. “Third Act supporters are retired teachers, healthcare professionals, lawyers, union members, parents, grandparents, great aunts, uncles, and now activists. They are taking action—together with youth and families—to make a difference! They are calling on banks like Citi to invest in a peaceful and livable world for all.”

Before his arrest, McKibben addressed the crowd, saying, “It might feel very hot to us, but it was 122 degrees (Fahrenheit) in New Delhi two weeks ago. Lots and lots and lots of people died. Things like this now happen every day around the world, and they happen worst [and] first in the places that have done the least to cause this crisis.” He added, “This is the deepest question of justice the world has ever come across. And the bank that we’re outside has done more than almost any institution on Earth to make it worse. Given full warning by scientists of all kinds for the last 30 years, they have decided instead to try to make profit off the end of the world.”

Margaret Bullit-Jonas, an Episcopalian priest and author, participated in the protest and criticized Citibank’s actions. “Citibank is destroying the world that God loved into being and entrusted to our care,” she said. “At this decisive moment in history, we teeter on the brink of climate chaos. Now is the time for Citibank to choose life and to stop financing fossil fuels.”

Third Act members were joined by activists from various climate, environmental, and social justice groups. Summer of Heat organizer Liv Senghor emphasized the movement’s intergenerational and intersectional nature. “We know that there is no climate justice without social justice,” Senghor said. “And we know that if we do not stop financial institutions like Citibank right now, we will all feel the deadly consequences today, tomorrow, and for generations to come.”

Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., president and CEO of the HipHop Caucus, stressed the need for immediate action to mitigate ongoing damage and ensure a sustainable future. “To limit ongoing damage, and ensure a bright future for the next generations, we need bold action now to curb emissions, transition to clean energy, and to help households and communities mitigate current and future risks,” Yearwood said.

Gus Speth, former chair of the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality, warned about the dire consequences of continued fossil fuel financing. “We are on the cusp of a ruined planet, and the big banks like Citi are funding it, to the tune of trillions,” Speth said. “It’s time for the Citigroup board of directors to wake up to their responsibility. Citi talks about environmental sustainability but practices environmental destruction.”

Citibank claims it is “supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy through our net zero commitments and our $1 trillion sustainable finance goal.” The bank asserts that its “approach reflects the need to transition while also continuing to meet global energy needs.” Despite these claims, Stop the Money Pipeline, a co-organizer of Summer of Heat, reports that Citi has provided $204.46 billion in financing for new fossil fuel projects since the 2015 signing of the Paris Agreement.

Summer of Heat highlighted the disproportionate impact of climate change on vulnerable communities. “From the Bronx to the Gulf South, Black, Latine, Asian, Indigenous, and low-income communities living on the frontlines of the climate crisis—and the ones least responsible for it—face the highest asthma rates and staggering cancer rates while an unprecedented number of people are dying from heat waves,” the group stated.

“Instead of staying home and hiding from the heat, organizers are calling on all New Yorkers and climate defenders from across the globe to take to the streets and demand that Wall Street stop destroying our future,” Summer of Heat added.

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