Pictured Above: The protesters at the East Hampton Airport. |. Courtesy of Margaret Klein Salamon/Climate Emergency Fund

Twelve protesters were arrested Friday, July 14 in an attempt to shut down the East Hampton Airport, part of a weekend-long series of local actions highlighting income inequality organized by New York Communities for Change.

Filmmaker Abigail Disney and a group of veteran climate activists attempted to shut down private jet arrivals and departures at the East Hampton Airport on Friday afternoon, July 14, by laying across the entrance to the airport on Daniels Hole Road, their hands joined together by PVC plumbing pipe that was removed by the police with reciprocating saws.

The action kicked off a weekend of protests outside homes, golf courses and yacht clubs in an attempt to “disrupt the exclusive vacations of wealthy fossil fuel investors and polluters driving the climate crisis,” according to New York Communities for Change, which was joined by members of Planet Over Profit, and Sunrise Movement NYC.

The organizers pointed out that their protests took place during a historic heat wave, as they highlighted the CEOs, executives, and investors behind billions of dollars invested in the fossil fuel industry.

“As a person who has been privileged enough to use private jets, I know it’s hard to give up a luxury that is special. But I also know that the time has passed for spewing greenhouse gasses like this merely for our personal comfort,” said Abigail Disney, a documentary film producer and activist who is the grandniece of Walt Disney, regarding her participation in the airport action. “The events of the past week alone, with Earth’s average temperature hitting an all time high, drought and fatal heat waves across the country, floods in Vermont and New York, and ocean temperatures around Florida well over 90 degrees, should remove all doubt once and for all. The wealthiest 1 percent uses as much greenhouse gas as the entire bottom 50 percent. It is time for real change and this is the most obvious place to start.” 

In the past year, climate activists have begun escalating their criticism of private jet use. Last November, hundreds of protesters stormed the private jet area of Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, followed by a day of 14 protests against private jets in 13 countries, including at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey.

Six climate activists were arrested last July for attempting to shut down the East Hampton Airport in a protest also led by New York Communities for Change.

“The wealthy are destroying our planet and yet the burden of climate change falls solely on the shoulders of the most vulnerable,” said Olivia Leirer, Co-Executive Director of New York Communities for Change, of the weekend of action. “We cannot afford to let the one percent continue to act with impunity while our planet suffers. Their actions have far-reaching consequences, and it is time for them to be held accountable for fueling the climate crisis.”

“These same rich people farting into the Hamptons on private jets are often the ones who make their money in industries that hugely accelerate the climate crisis,” said Teddy Ogborn, organizer of Planet Over Profit, who was arrested at the airport protest. “As long as the 1 percent continues to needlessly poison our air and heat our earth, we will continue to escalate our actions against them.”

On Saturday, July 15, members of the Shinnecock Nation were joined by Black, brown, and working-class New Yorkers from New York Communities for Change, Sunrise Movement NYC, and Planet Over Profit in a protest alongside the marinas on Newtown Road on the Shinnecock Canal.

“Historically, indigenous communities, including the Shinnecock Nation, have faced various challenges such as land dispossession, economic marginalization, cultural assimilation, and inadequate access to resources and services,” said Tela Troge, Director of the Shinnecock Kelp Farmers. “These issues are often a result of capitalism, colonialism, historical injustices and systemic inequalities that benefit billionaires.”

Protesters were carrying pitchforks and inflatable orcas, the latter in a nod to the recent killer whale uprisings that have capsized multiple yachts.  

Large yachts can produce more than 1,500 times the climate-heating pollution as the average family car, and megayacht sales keep increasing.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently released an analysis that found that that Indigenous  and Alaska natives are 48 percent more likely than other groups to live in areas that will be inundated by flooding from sea-level rise under a 2 degrees of warming scenario, Latinos would be 43 percent more likely to live in communities that will lose work hours because of intense heat, and Black people would suffer significantly higher mortality rates. 

On Sunday, the group continued its protest at the Sebonac Golf Course, and they continued on Monday by picketing outside the homes of Citibank board chair John Dugan and KKR co-founder Henry Kravis on Meadow Lane in Southampton and on Peconic Bay Boulevard in Riverhead, due to their companies’ investments in fossil fuels.

According to Oxfam, the world’s richest 1 percent produce more than double the emissions than the poorest 50 percent, and billionaires create a million times the climate-heating pollution as the average person. Private planes are up to 14 times more polluting, per passenger, than commercial planes, and 50 times more polluting than trains, according to a report by Transport & Environment, a European clean transport campaign organization.

“As a Hurricane Sandy survivor whose family lost our home, I know first-hand that the grotesquely wealthy’s reckless consumption is destroying our lives,” said Rachel Rivera, member of New York Communities for Change. “The 1 percent can try to hide away in the Hamptons, but as their fossil fuel investments overheat our planet, we’ll be at their doorsteps to hold them accountable.”

East End Beacon
The East End Beacon is your guide to social and environmental issues, arts & culture on the East End of Long Island.

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