Thirteen climate activists were arrested and another 19 were issued summonses for blocking the entryway to the New York Times printing plant in Queens, thwarting delivery trucks and newspaper distribution for several hours Friday morning, a demonstration that coincided with Earth Day.
Activists with Extinction Rebellion chained themselves to a series of poles and pipes, demanding the Times and other companies that use the distribution facility drop their advertising deals with fossil fuel companies.
Police confirmed the arrests, saying the activists, who ranged in age from 20 years old to 80, were charged with trespassing, obstructing governmental administration and disorderly conduct.
Extinction Rebellion took aim at three companies that use the distribution site in the Earth Day action: the New York Times for continuing to accept advertising dollars from fossil fuel companies; the Wall Street Journal for a series of opinion pieces backed by the fossil fuel industry; and USA Today for covering the climate crisis less regularly than any other national paper.
We’ve waited this long and time is running out. It’s time for us to mass mobilize.
“We’ve waited this long and time is running out,” said Mun Chong, 36, an activist with the group. “It’s time for us to mass mobilize.”
The printing plant in College Point produces about 40% of the New York Times print publication and has contracts with other papers including USA Today, Newsday, the New York Post, and the Wall Street Journal, a Times company spokesperson confirmed.
Chong pointed to the recent United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report where scientists warned it’s “now or never” to keep the planet from warming fewer than 1.5 degrees in the coming years. Locally, activists have also warned New York state is not taking drastic enough measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
During the several hours protesters refused to move, one fell from a perch high above the ground and hit the concrete when police and fire marshals tried to get him down, and two others were hit by a car, when a worker at the facility tried to drive through the blockade, Chong said.
“Climate protesters are having to escalate and put their lives at risk,” she said, adding all the activists were okay. “What we’re putting on the line is what is necessary.”
Danielle Rhoades Ha, spokesperson for the Times, took issue with the protesters’ disruption of deliveries Friday morning and said customers were being notified.
“Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time and there is no national news organization that devotes more time, staff or resources to producing deeply reported coverage to help readers understand these issues than The New York Times,” she said. “While 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, disrupting our business operations and depriving people of critical information is not acceptable.”
The Wall Street Journal and USA Today didn’t return requests for comment immediately.
The protest disrupted newspaper deliveries across the area Friday morning. Workers at newsstands in SoHo said they’d failed to get their regular New York Times shipment. And readers of other papers including Newsday, which also uses the Times’ distribution facility, noticed their paper had failed to arrive on their doorsteps.
“I called the company,” said Pater Sai, who’d tried to figure out why the Times didn’t arrive at the Global Newsstand on Varick Street Friday morning. “No answer.”