Nicholas Vazquez leads and speaks to members of a symbolic ‘die-in’ at the Gainesville City Hall on July 27, 2021.
Embarking on an 800-mile walk across the state of Florida, Nicholas Vazquez is a 23-year-old climate activist using unconventional tactics to raise awareness for climate change. Vazquez arrived in Gainesville on July 27, one of nine stops on his journey to Tallahassee. He has just reached the two-month mark for the walk, which began on April 22 out of Miami, Florida. Upon his arrival to Gainesville, Vazquez organized and spoke to activists on the steps of the Hippodrome Theater before hosting a more demonstrative protest at the Gainesville City Hall.
Just after 6 p.m. on July 27, Vazquez stood at the steps of the theater in a woven pair of brown slippers reading off a black iPhone to a small, but enthusiastic, crowd of supporters. Vazquez spoke candidly about his experience with Extinction Rebellion, a UK-based climate organization that he represents, and his expectations for the walk across the state, including the need for Governor Ron DeSantis to declare a climate emergency. Among the issues Vazquez wanted to call attention to were crop failures, water shortages, sea level rise, increased carbon emissions, deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest and global temperature elevations, at one point exclaiming, “Siberia is on f—ing fire!”
Many of Vazquez’s words about the urgent need for climate action were met with affirmation and small chants from the group of around 15 supporters who had gathered around the steps of the theater. Following the conclusion of Vazquez’s statements, the group organized themselves with various signs and posters demanding action and marched for four blocks north on Southeast First Street until reaching the Gainesville City Hall. Many of these signs and materials were supplied by Anne Hemingway Feuer, a member of Extinction Rebellion who had driven to Gainesville from Miami in order to hear Vazquez speak. Feuer credits her environmental activism as one of the ways she overcame her depression about the environment and pointed toward the value of motivating others in the fight for climate awareness.
Later in the evening at the Gainesville City Hall, Vazquez and a handful of supporters partook in a symbolic ‘die-in’, collapsing on the steps and front lawn of the building after reading an imagined climate-change-related cause of death. Though only certain members of the group participated in the act of lying down and ‘dying’, others placed flowers to memorialize the symbolic deaths and outlined the bodies lying on cement in various sticks of chalk that were distributed. Although no city officials or the mayor of Gainesville appeared at the event, Vazquez remains hopeful that his tactics will create the necessary impressions across both local and state governments. In 2019, Vazquez and other Extinction Rebellion activists successfully convinced Miami Mayor Francis Suarez to declare a climate emergency, and Vazquez is expecting a large amount of publicity and coverage upon his arrival and hunger strike in Tallahassee.
To continue following Nicholas’ journey across the state please visit https://xramerica.org/walk-with-nick/, and make sure to follow Cinema Verde’s social media outlets! Nicholas will be in Gainesville until July 30 and is looking to connect with the people of Gainesville during his last few days. On August 10th, 2021, Nicholas will be in Jacksonville, Florida, beginning his March Against Treason to the state’s capital and hopes many people will join him on the trek along I-10.
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