Tens of thousands of protesters joined an enormous demonstration through the centre of the Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Wednesday evening to demand economic justice and action over climate change.
The march coincided with the start of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. Politicians from around the world have arrived in the city for the summit.
Activists have been holding an alternative People’s Assembly in defence of people’s rights and against the privatisation of nature. The assembly called the demonstration to bring together those concerned about the environment and those fighting the system that is destroying it.
Few on the protest had any faith in the UN summit. Anna, a linguistics student, was there to support her striking lecturers. She told Socialist Worker that the Brazilian government had cancelled negotiations with the strikers claiming they were too busy with the Rio conference.
The march was headed by technicians and lecturers from Brazil’s universities who are striking against increased workloads and low pay. They were joined by Brazil’s firefighters who are demanding parity between their pay and that of the police.
There was an impressive turnout from Brazil’s unions. Bank workers demanded a “Robin Hood tax” on financial transactions. Argentinan trade unionists came in solidarity.
But there were also significant turnouts from other campaigns, such as the MST movement of landless workers. They marched behind a banner declaring “no to the false solutions of green capitalism”—summing up the frustrations that demonstrators have with the UN process.
Politicians are imposing solutions that have nothing to do with saving the planet—and everything to do with allowing multinationals to further exploit the natural world. These solutions promise “green jobs” but only at the expense of further privatisation of the natural world.
Legislation passed just last month threaten the Amazon rainforest. The new legal code makes it easier for large firms to cut down trees and offers an amnesty for previous illegal logging.
Maria Irigaray was on the demonstration to protesting against the forestry code. Last week she took part in an occupation of the Belo Monte dam construction site in the heart of the Amazon.
The dam will destroy an enormous area of forest that is home to 20,000 people. The UN conference was “bullshit”, Maria said, adding that there had been “no dialogue, no democracy” from summit organisers.
But Maria was also inspired by Rio march. “All the different groups are coming together and speaking with one voice,” she told Socialist Worker. “We all want a better world—one that is really sustainable—not just a conference for fancy people.”