Climate change activists protest in the centre of New York

On Saturday afternoon climate change activists organized by the Extinction Rebellion blocked Eighth Avenue in New York between the Port Authority transit hub and the home of the New York Times.

The New York police department (NYPD) said 70 people were arrested as they called for more effective media coverage of the dangers of climate change, in a dramatic demonstration that saw people stage a die-in in front of the newspaper building and disrupt traffic in midtown Manhattan.

Two demonstrators scaled the front of the Port Authority building, which houses a major bus terminal and subway interchange, to hang a protest banner. Protesters also climbed on to the canopy outside the Times headquarters and unfurled a banner that encouraged the use of the phrase “climate emergency” instead of “climate change”.

One protester, Donna Nicolino, told the Guardian she was ready to be arrested, because “we want the New York Times as well as all the other media to treat climate change as the crisis it is”.

She joined a line of people with arms linked on West 40th Street and Eighth Avenue, blocking the road. The group remained until they were arrested by New York City police officers.

“The lack of coverage of the climate crisis is completely unacceptable,” said Becca Trabin, a member of Extinction Rebellion’s press and fundraising teams. “It’s a public safety crisis on a global scale.”

Trabin said that though it might not be convenient to report on, read about and discuss climate change every day, it should nonetheless be a media priority.

“No one wants to hear about the climate crisis every day but if we don’t read about it every day we endanger ourselves,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the New York Times, Danielle Rhoades Ha, said that in 2018 the newspaper published 795 articles about the climate, including investigative stories and dispatches from across the globe about the impact of climate change.

“There is no national news organization that devotes more time, staff or resources to producing deeply reported coverage to help readers understand climate change than The New York Times,” Rhoades Ha said.

“We fully support this group’s right to express their point of view, even when we disagree with it as it relates to our coverage.”

For nearly an hour, the block outside the Times building was crowded with demonstrators, onlookers and NYPD officers. A police recording repeated a warning that anyone who did not clear the street would be arrested. A helicopter flew overhead.

“Seas are rising and so are we,” chanted one group of demonstrators on the sidewalk, where surprised tourists, workers and bystanders asked for more information.

The block still was closed even after the protest ended because police officers processed the arrest of a few demonstrators, including two who had rappelled down the face of Port Authority to hang a sign.

Pedestrians asked police if a movie was being shot or if a terrorist attack has taken place.