Extinction Rebellion secures Citgo sign in Kenmore Square

Extinction Rebellion secures Citgo sign in Kenmore Square

Climate Activists demand that the Massachusetts and federal government declare a climate emergency and transition the economy to net-zero carbon by 2025

A group of climate activists from Extinction Rebellion (XR) have covered the Citgo sign near the Charles River with a banner reading "Climate Justice Now." The group seeks to combat the climate catastrophe, calling for rapidly transitioning away from an energy system that relies on burning fossil fuels, and toward fully sustainable zero emission sources. Several activists are remaining on the sign in order to keep the banner in place for the entire evening.

"The Citgo sign could use a makeover. At this moment of heightened racial awareness, we want to make people think hard about what climate justice means. The Boston skyline matches our society's ultimate values if it promotes climate justice rather than fossil fuels. If people give that some thought, we think they'll agree," said Matthew Kearney, a spokesperson for XR.

The banner specifically calls for climate justice, not merely for climate action. This aligns with one of Extinction Rebellion's core demands: a just transition away from fossil fuels that acknowledges, and seeks to counteract, the disproportionate impact that the climate catastrophe will have on socially disadvantaged communities. In Boston, Black and Latinx residents are far more likely to live in polluted areas, especially due to gas emissions; researchers link this to disparities in Covid-19 risk.[i]

Allen McGonagill, a lead organizer of the banner protest, said: "We demand a rapid transition to a clean economy that prioritizes climate justice and establishes remediation for Indigenous, Black, and P.O.C. communities that will be hit the hardest by the climate crisis. The actions we take on climate in the next 5 years will determine the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people."

The Citgo sign, constructed in 1965, advertises an oil company that burns fossil fuels for profit.[ii] As the activists pointed out, the City of Boston, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the federal government, and the international community acknowledge the climate crisis is an enormous problem but take little to no action. Boston has declared climate change a public health emergency but without a tangible policy to address it. Governor Baker centered climate in his most recent State of the Commonwealth address with a carbon neutrality target of 2050, a time frame that scientists tell us will be woefully ineffective. Even Trump administration agencies issue dire reports on the dangers the world faces,[iii] but the President has pulled out of the Paris agreement and given tens of billions in subsidies and tax breaks to fossil fuel companies.[iv]

The population of Massachusetts understands this. In a statewide poll released earlier this year, 79 percent of Massachusetts residents—four out of five—say climate change would be a serious problem if left unaddressed. 70 percent acknowledged they would have to change how they lived because of climate change. 69 percent say Massachusetts needs to change its climate policy, and 80 percent say the federal government needs to change its climate policy.[v] In the views of Extinction Rebellion activists, it is inconsistent with the values of the greater Boston community for the city skyline to promote fossil fuels, especially at a time when racial justice is at the center of attention and the racial disparities of climate justice are known. They have therefore taken this opportunity to update the sign themselves.

The Citgo sign will not be damaged. "We're not damaging any property," Kearney added. "We want to get people to think and to act. Let's pressure our leaders. We need bold action on climate now, not years from now."

The banner unfurled at approximately 7:30 p.m. on August 10, coinciding with the beginning of the Red Sox vs. Rays baseball game. The banner covered the side of the sign that could be viewed from Fenway Park. The side facing away from Fenway was left uncovered. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, games are currently played without fans, but the stadium cameras are still working as normal. The banner, which XR constructed for this occasion, measures 42 square feet.

Citgo is the fifth-largest independent refinery in the United States, according to its press materials. It produces 769,000 barrels of oil per day and owns five pipelines. It made a profit of $246 million in fiscal year 2019.[vi]

Climate scientists, virtually unanimously, predict catastrophic results from accumulated greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Earth is on track for several degrees of heating. Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets will melt, causing a sea level rise that will flood coastal cities, including large sections of Boston, Cambridge, and many other Massachusetts communities.[vii] Hundreds of thousands of species may go extinct, devastating biodiversity and risking mass food shortages.[viii] Deserts will expand and render large areas of the planet uninhabitable, forcing millions of climate refugees to migrate, disrupting societies and economies.[ix] None of this is in scientific dispute.

Extinction Rebellion Boston is an autonomous chapter of the international grassroots movement, Extinction Rebellion (XR), which started in London in 2018. The purpose of XR is to tell the truth about how dire the ecological and climate crisis is and spark immediate action in order to prevent complete climate and ecological collapse. We aim to mobilize people around the world to utilize nonviolent direct action to demand that governments take radical action to avert societal collapse caused by widespread climate and ecological disaster, and to protect front-line communities, biodiversity, and the natural world. This movement is non-political, and unites all of humanity behind a singular goal of a just and livable future. Learn more at: xrmass.org

[i] Metropolitan Area Planning Council. 2020. "Greater Boston Residents of Color More Likely to Live Near High-Polluting Roads."

[ii] Miles Howard. 2018. "Boston: It's Time to Reimagine the Citgo Sign."

[iii] U.S. Global Change Research Program. 2018. "Fourth National Climate Assessment."

[iv] Environmental and Energy Study Institute. 2019. "Fossil Fuel Subsidies: A Closer Look at Tax Breaks."

[v] Katie Lannon. 2020. "Poll Tested Public Opinion on Climate Change." Statehouse News Service.

[vi] Citgo. 2020. "Citgo Reports Results for FY19."

[vii] Simón Rios. 2018. "Sea Level Rise Could Threaten 90,000 Homes in Mass., Study Finds."; City of Cambridge. 2019. "The Port Preparedness Plan."; City of Boston. 2020. "Preparing for Climate Change."

[viii] United Nations. "Nature's Dangerous Decline 'Unprecedented'; Species Extinction Rates 'Accelerating.'"

[ix] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 2014. Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report.

Additional resources:

  • Bill McKibben. 2011. Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. New York: St. Martin's Griffin
  • Naomi Klein. 2014. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. New York: Simon & Schuster
  • David Wallace-Wells. 2019. The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. New York: Tim Duggan Books.

Related Stories:

Upcoming Events: