Unitarian Universalists "Break Free" In Unprecedented Global Wave of Direct Action

An unprecedented wave of public protests and civil disobedience for climate justice has taken place this month! More than 30,000 people worldwide took bold, direct actions to call for a transition to 100% renewable energy and a "Break Free" from fossil fuels!

Unitarian Universalist faith communities and activists played a part in many places. Check it out:

Mass actions took place twice in the Denver, Colorado area: first protesting a Bureau of Land Management auction of mineral rights on public lands on May 12th, and then occupying a fracking site adjacent to an elementary school on May 14th (pictured below). Activist trainings were held at the First Unitarian Society of Denver, with Elizabeth Mount, a Meadville-Lombard seminarian and UU Young Adults for Climate Justice core member, as one of the trainers (pictured to the right).

13263731_984218851676975_7804706533680818777_n.jpg Pictured are the trainers of a non-violent direct action training at the First Unitarian Society of Denver
Photo: Christian O'Rourke,
Survival Media Agency (source)
Photo: Jessica Stone Troy (source)


Jimmy Betts with EDGE in Philadelphia

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -- Jimmy Betts, member of the UU Young Adults for Climate and the Beyond Extreme Energy collective, took action with the group EDGE (Encouraging Development of a Green Economy) to disrupt the Natural Gas for Power Generation summit at the Hilton Philadelphia by claiming eminent domain to put a human pipeline through the hotel. The protest news release states, "Built along two tidal rivers, Philadelphia is the city second-most at risk [in the USA] to power outages from climate-change-fueled storms. Members of the public who brought their message to the conferences say that reliance on fossil fuels undermines global efforts to slow climate change and locks the city and the state into decades of fossil fuel use while the rest of the world shifts to energy efficiency and renewables."

In Anacortes, Washington, hundreds of people took action over multiple days. Over one-hundred people camped out on a railroad line to blockade rail access to fossil fuel refineries operated by Shell and Tesoro, others took to the water in canoes and kayaks, and participated in marches and prayer ceremonies. Unitarian Universalists representing eleven congregations and the Oregon UU Voices for Justice were present. UU climate justice activists Barbara Ford and Carlo Voli helped to coordinate various aspects of the activist gatherings and protests. Check out this video for an overview of what happened in the Pacific Northwest:

In Washington, DC, Unitarian Universalists participated in a mass march to demand an end to offshore drilling and mineral right leasing in the Arctic and Gulf of Mexico, alongside Quaker and United Church of Christ activists (pictured below)


Source: @ClimateWatching
 St. Augustine protesters

In St. Augustine, Florida, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of St. Augustine was one of the main sponsors for a March for Future Generations. Pictured (to the left) are Joyce Peterson, Toni Wallace and Nana Royer, members of the Fellowship who marched carrying a kayak with signs reading "Keep It In the Ground OR We Will Drown" and "No Seismic Testing" (Source: UUFSA Facebook page).

In Whiting, Indiana, activists gathered at Lake Michigan for a Native-led water ceremony and prayer --- and then hundreds marched to a BP refinery known to process large amounts of Canadian tar sands. Check out this video of the march and protest produced by Unicorn Riot:

Fourty-one protestors were arrested outside of the facility, including UU Young Adult Dominic Giafagleone (pictured below, wearing a blue shirt and grey jacket).

Photo by Bob Simpson (Source)

"Break Free 2016" has officially ended (be sure to check out the campaign's website for inspiration from actions that took place all over the world), but the momentum of public demands to keep oil, gas and coal in the ground is maintaining strong.

  • The day that Break Free 2016 ended, the Beyond Extreme Energy collective launched a "#RubberStampRebellion" escalated week of action (after months and months of sustained protest) demanding that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) stop rubber-stamping interstate fracked gas pipelines.
  • And this weekend, thousands will gather for Hands Across the Sand / Hands Across the Land --- bringing together "thousands of Americans and global citizens at beaches and cities to draw metaphorical and actual lines in the sand; human lines in the sand against fossil fuels that threaten our future." (webpage).

We are sure that there are many more stories of spiritually-grounded activists taking action for climate justice over these past two weeks that are worth sharing --- If you've taken action recently and have stories or pictures to share, please comment below!


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  • commented 2016-05-22 09:46:26 -0400
    Some UU congregations have escalated their activism addressing climate change issues, primarily focusing on the damage done and continuing to be done by the oil and gas industries and its supporters. The resistance and the raising of our UU voices for the health of our land, water and human and animal inhabitants of our planet are growing stronger and have committed to never stopping until we turn our energy, money, technology and every other kind of support toward clean, sustainable energy.