A massive environmental demonstration in New York is accompanied by parody.
On a warm September afternoon, just two days before a United Nations climate summit, satire brought surprise and play to a massive public demonstration of concern over climate change. In New York City an estimated 311,000 demonstrators, including former Vice President Al Gore and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, gathered in protest, in solidarity, and occasionally in costume, for the largest climate march in history.
“I spent the day in the key of clown, in the mode of satire,” said activist and performance studies scholar Larry Bogad. Bogad is a performer and strategist with the Billionaires, a satirical activist network I’ve studied ethnographically who use parody and street theatre to protest surging wealth inequality, the role of big money in politics, and what they view as the de facto disenfranchisement of the American electorate. Not since August 29, 2004, the eve of the quadrennial Republican National Convention, had the city’s streets been filled with so many protesters. During that historic 2004 march, organized by United for Peace and Justice and many other groups, I joined the Million Billionaire March down Fifth Avenue after watching media hordes interview and photograph elegantly attired Billionaire satirists playing croquet and badminton on Central Park’s Great Lawn in whimsical riposte to the city’s denial of a permit for thousands to protest in the park. Ten years later, official permissions for the climate march had proceeded more smoothly and the Billionaires mingled with other groups in a family-friendly celebratory demonstration.