Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: "The Only Thing We Have in Our Power is People Power"

September 22, 2014


Elizabeth Yeampierre

executive director of the Brooklyn-based environmental justice group UPROSE.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

environmental activist and attorney.

Environmental activist and attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was one of up to 400,000 people joining the People’s Climate March Sunday in New York City. "American politics is driven by two forces: One is intensity, and the other is money," Kennedy says. "The Koch brothers have all the money. They’re putting $300 million this year into their efforts to stop the climate bill. And the only thing we have in our power is people power, and that’s why need to put this demonstration on the street." We also hear from Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of the group UPROSE and an organizer of Sunday’s march.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined by a fellow environmentalist. Elizabeth Yeampierre is with us, from UPROSE. And we’re also joined by Bobby Kennedy Jr., a longtime environmental lawyer. Bobby, if you could just step back right there and stand right there as we do this makeshift staging for a protest that is not exactly makeshift. This has been in the planning for how long?

ELIZABETH YEAMPIERRE: For eight months. We’ve been working diligently for eight months.

AMY GOODMAN: Bobby Kennedy, talk about why you’re out here today.

ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.: Well, Amy, I was here on Earth Day 1970. I was down at Union Square Park. And, you know, I remember what it was like then. I remember the Cuyahoga River burning, Lake Erie being declared dead, the Santa Barbara oil spill that destroyed all the beaches in southern California. Peregrine falcons, the Manhattan peregrine that used to nest on that building there, went extinct in 1969 from DDT poisoning. And a lot of people said, "Well, there’s nothing we can do about it. That’s just the way that industry works." But we put 20 million Americans out onto the street that year, 10 percent of our population, a thousand demonstrations like this across the country, largest public demonstrations in American history. And that vast outpouring of democratic power so frightened the politicians in our country that over the next 10 years we passed 28 major environmental laws. We’re trying to do the same thing today. American politics is driven by two forces, and one is intensity, and the other is money. The Koch brothers have all the money. They’re putting $300 million this year to their efforts to stop the climate bill. And the only thing we have in our power is people power. And that’s why we need to put this demonstration on the street.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, you’ve certainly put it there. What do you think your father would say?

ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.: I think he’d be very disturbed by what’s happened to American democracy. I think he’d be horrified by the Citizens United case and by the subversion that we’ve seen of our democracy in this country, by these apocalyptical forces of ignorance and greed that are funded by Big Oil and Big Coal. And, you know, it’s not the way that America is supposed to work. This is supposed to be an exemplary nation, and we’re supposed to be an example of democracy to the rest of the world. Democracy and the environment are intertwined. Most important environmental law that we can pass right now, besides putting a price on carbon, is getting rid of the Citizens United case.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, and as you were speaking, Bobby Kennedy, the march looks like it has launched. Elizabeth, you have to leave, as well.

ELIZABETH YEAMPIERRE: I do. I have to leave.

AMY GOODMAN: But if you could just say final words about the global nature of this protest?

ELIZABETH YEAMPIERRE: Absolutely. We’ve got people marching all over the world in solidarity with New York City today—it’s really exciting—people from the Global South, from Europe, all over. So this is a big, loud noise that we’re sending out to the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Elizabeth Yeampierre, thank you so much. We have so many people to speak to today. Thank you, Elizabeth.

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