Is the Paris Climate March Cancellation a 'Gift to the Movement'?

"This element of uncertainty...can give birth to the global social movement that activists have been dreaming of," says Occupy Wall Street co-founder

Climate activists filled the streets of New York City in 2014. Organizers were disappointed this week to learn a massive march in Paris will not go on as planned. Credit: Timothy Fadek/Bloomberg via Getty

Earlier this week, envoys for the various environmental groups determined to demonstrate during the upcoming COP21 world climate talks met with Parisian police to discuss the fate of the marquee event: a long-planned march that was expected to draw as many as 200,000 people into the streets of Paris.

Their meeting Tuesday ended in a deadlock, and on Wednesday the activists left defeated. "The police have just informed us that the tragic attacks in Paris have made the march there impossible," Avaaz Deputy Director Emma Ruby-Sachs said in a statement after the discussion.

There are still thousands of marches and actions planned in more than 150 countries that will go ahead as planned, Ruby-Sachs said, noting, "Now it's even more important for people everywhere to march on the weekend of November 29th on behalf of those who can't, and show that we are more determined than ever to meet the challenges facing humanity with hope, not fear."

Jamie Henn, communications director for 350.org, confirmed the dispiriting news. "We won't be marching, but will be looking for other creative ways people can still make their voices heard in Paris," Henn said in email to Rolling Stone.

It is a huge blow for activist who only days before had redoubled their resolve to hold the march. On Wednesday, fissures were beginning to emerge among climate activists over the decision.

Micah White, former Adbusters editor and one of the co-founders of Occupy Wall Street, called law enforcement's decision to ban the march "a gift to the movement," in an email to Rolling Stone.

Before it was banned, White says, "the climate march was destined to fail because everyone knew what would happen: the people would march, be ignored and go home. Now, if the people march, no one knows what will happen. This element of uncertainty, if exploited by protest organizers, can give birth to the global social movement that activists have been dreaming of."

Juliette Rousseau, coordinator of Coalition Climat 21, an umbrella organization representing more than 130 groups that had planned to participate in Paris demonstrations, tried to reassure supporters.

"We realize the gravity of the situation," she said in a statement, "but now  more than ever, we need to find creative ideas to call on people to unite around climate action."