By Olivia Rosane / Common Dreams
BlackRock security guards and NYPD officers “brutalized” climate campaigners this morning, according to organizers, after activists succeeded in shuttering the entrance to the headquarters of the world’s largest fossil fuel investor for three hours.
Alice Hu, the senior climate campaigner for New York Communities for Change (NYCC), told Common Dreams that 11 out of 75 activists were arrested after storming the building with pitchforks and pouring fake oil to demand that the asset-management firm stop investing in fossil fuels. The advocacy group posted several videos on Twitter of first BlackRock security and then police officers “roughing up” the activists, including one elderly protester who they say was manhandled by police.
“If only @BlackRock treated the climate crisis with this much urgency!” tweeted Stop the Money Pipeline in response to one of the videos.
The first round of aggression caught on camera came as the activists rushed the headquarters’ revolving doors. Among them was Teddy Ogborn of Reclaim Our Tomorrow, who uses they and he pronouns. When they first approached the building, security pinned them to the ground, with one guard pressing on their shoulder so tightly, explained Ogborn, that they felt as if they were losing circulation.
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During Ogborn’s second attempt, a guard either kneed or stomped on their leg as it was sticking out from the door, then picked them up roughly and put them in a “wrestling-style” hold with their knee pressed into their chest.
“It was becoming difficult to breathe or see,” they said.
Ogborn said it felt like they were held that way for at least a minute before a friend approached and told the guard Ogborn was in pain. Eventually, the guard relaxed the hold but kept a “vice grip” on their shoulders until the police arrived to arrest them. Now out of jail and charged with disorderly conduct, Ogborn said they still felt pain in their leg and tightness in their neck.
Hu said that other protesters were “slammed to the ground.” The aggressive behavior continued over the course of the action, initiated around half by security and half by police once they arrived, she said. She was particularly “outraged” when police “brutalized” an elderly protester.
Beyond Ogborn’s lingering pain, neither Hu nor Ogborn know if any of the other demonstrators were injured.
This level of aggression towards activists from BlackRock is not new, both organizers said. During an action at the firm’s old headquarters in October of 2022, one guard picked up a metal object and threatened to hit protesters, Hu said.
During that protest, Ogborn said they went up the escalator with two friends when security grabbed them from behind and pulled them by their legs until they fell. At one point, the guard whispered in their ear, “I’m going to fucking kill you,” Ogborn recalled.
Security dragged the other two activists along the ground as well.
Later, during an action in March of this year, BlackRock security said they were aware of what had happened in October, that it was not appropriate, and that they had taken steps to deal with it, Hu said. But security’s actions today suggest that wasn’t the case.
“We’re a bit fed up,” Hu said.
But, at the same time, she said that the company’s aggressive reaction proves the protests are having an impact.
“This kind of civil disobedience is the way forward in terms of fighting climate change.”
“This kind of civil disobedience is the way forward in terms of fighting climate change,” Hu said.
Today’s action was part of the “Earth Day to May Day” protests aimed at Wall Street’s biggest fossil fuel funders. Other events included a takeover of Citigroup HQ Monday—and the first overnight occupation of the bank—as well as a closing of KKR’s headquarters that led to six arrests, NYCC said. The climate movement has been targeting BlackRock’s fossil fuel investments specifically for a year.
“With around $9 trillion total in investments, BlackRock is so big it is altering geologic history by funneling hundreds of billions of dollars into fossil fuels,” Hu said in a press release. “We’re infuriated, and for good reason: BlackRock is playing a leading role in destroying the planet when it could be helping save us instead by steering clients away from fossil fuel investments.”
Despite their tangles with security, Ogborn said they plan to continue protesting BlackRock, which they argued was killing people by funneling money towards climate-polluting fuels and the military industrial complex.
“It doesn’t stop until we stop it,” they said.
Olivia Rosane is a staff writer for Common Dreams.