Environmental activists protest, get arrested, during holiday season

As the holiday season begins, South Florida environmental organizations are protesting the consumption of animal products and the burning of fossil fuels, as well as global warming and its link to sea level rise in South Florida.

Animal Rebellion is an environmental conservation organization. According to its website, the organization focuses on ending destructive animal farming and fishing industries. It argues that a plant-based food system is the only way to minimize the risk of a climate change crisis.

On Black Friday, Animal Rebellion teamed up with two other groups, Extinction Rebellion and Fridays For Future, for a climate strike at Dadeland Mall. They planned to challenge consumerism and attack the broader capitalist system, which they argue has caused the climate crisis.

Both Extinction Rebellion and Fridays For Future are national groups whose Miami chapters focus on using the voice of youth to bring awareness to climate change by protesting.

The groups planned to protest inside the mall, however mall security and Miami-Dade Police interfered. Even after they were warned, around 30 people gathered in front of the Tesla store and participated in a die-in.

The protestors were instantly asked to leave the mall. They caused a commotion by chanting “the earth is on fire.”

Elijah Ruby (right, in yellow) and Didier Ortiz (left, in black) argue with police as they were asked to leave the mall premises. (Mariana Vargas/Caplin News)

Among the protestors was Elijah Ruby, a 17-year-old activist, who said he was not afraid to stand up to police. “The only way that any social movement will get what they are looking for is if they engage with an act of resistance to the powers that be,” he said.

The protestors held up posters and banners while chanting, “act now or you’re dead.” They received multiple honks from cars passing by.

Ruby said that Black Friday brings the most mall traffic throughout the year and that the mall symbolizes interest in consumer culture.

As the protest was taken to the sidewalk in front of the mall, bystanders stopped to watch and even recorded the scene.

Among them, Niki Brown, who works for Miami-Dade Public Schools, watched as protestors shouted their concerns.

“The youth play a significant part in our society, they are the future so I fully understand their interest in stopping climate change,” said Brown.

After an hour of protesting outside, activist Nicholas Vazquez, who is part of Extinction Rebellion, sat at an intersection to get his point across. He was physically removed from the street by police officers and was arrested.

Extinction Rebellion posted a GoFundMe on their Instagram page for people to help donate money to bail Vazquez out of jail. According to the GoFundMe site which received over $1,600, Vazquez was released from jail later that day.

In November, Animal Rebellion’s Miami chapter began a series of disruptions every Friday by standing in front of the meat section of supermarkets throughout the city.

Walmart, Whole Foods and Publix saw these protests at their stores, with protestors chanting and holding signs humanizing meat products. The organization would protest at up to four supermarkets per day.

Animal Rebellion planned the supermarket disruptions because of the holiday season and the high demand for turkey and other meats. Andrea Rivas, an environmental activist who is part of the group, attended the multiple protests and encouraged others to take action. “We always try to bring awareness about animal cruelty and how harmful it is for the planet and our health,” said Rivas.

Rivas said she participates in protests almost every week. She joins different groups such as Anonymous for the Voiceless, where activists stand with masks holding laptop and tablet screens with footage exposing issues with the meat and dairy industries. They also talk to bystanders and give information and resources on how to become vegan.

Mariana Vargas is a senior at FIU majoring in journalism. She was born in Bogota, Colombia but grew up in Miami. Her passion for writing led her to journalism. She strives to write stories that bring awareness to special causes and inspire others. She hopes to one day travel the world, writing stories of the different people she encounters.