BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Jane Califf and Ted Glick have taken a couple of trips to Delaware this year.
The Bloomfield couple was arrested along with 13 other seniors outside JPMorgan Chase’s credit card headquarters in Wilmington, Del., in June, while protesting climate change in front of the country’s largest bank investor in fossil fuel projects. They went back to Delaware last week for their court date only to find out it was delayed to later this month. But the second trip wasn’t a total waste: The group led a youth and seniors march to President Joe Biden’s home in Wilmington to deliver letters and drawings from children asking him to protect their future.
“He’s such a family man. His grandchildren are always around,” Califf said of Biden in a phone interview with The Independent Press on Oct. 1. “He’s made strong climate statements. When you read it, it’s great, but he’s not implementing it.”
The idea for the initial protest came from Beyond Extreme Energy, a climate activist organization Glick co-founded, and the group traveled from Biden’s birthplace of Scranton, Pa., to Wilmington to rally. They started directly outside the building but realized that they weren’t going to be noticed much. So they dragged rocking chairs into the street and sat in them, displaying signs asking for a climate emergency to be declared.
“There’s an image of older people sitting in rocking chairs and staring into space or watching TV,” Califf said about the group’s choice of seating. “We communicated with the cops the whole time. We went out into the street; we did it carefully, when there was a red light.”
The protestors didn’t block off the street enough to stop traffic, but police in Wilmington wouldn’t let them stay. They weren’t unkind, according to Califf, and she suspects that was because she and the other members of the group are older and mostly white. Some were handcuffed, and they were all taken to jail before being released a few hours later and given a court date.
But the arrests are not deterring anyone. This wasn’t the first time anyone arrested in Delaware had protested. Oftentimes, though, they’re not holding rallies that are exclusive to senior citizens. Young people leading climate change demonstrations have gotten much more attention.
“Usually, we’re mixed in with everyone else,” Califf said. “That’s why we thought of the rocking chairs. We’re in our 60s, 70s and 80s, and we’re very peppy. Why don’t we take advantage of this? Why don’t we flip the image?”
On the second trip to Delaware, they joined forces with some young people. High school teachers and students joined their march to Biden’s house, stopping before they reached their destination to give speeches.
“We passed by schools and a lot of teens joined us,” Califf said. “The main speakers were teenagers. They were so smart and dedicated.”
The Secret Service agents at the Biden home wouldn’t accept the box of letters and artwork, so it will be sent to the White House in the hopes of reaching the president that way. The elder protesters will be in Washington, D.C., soon anyway, to protest outside the White House and the Capitol.
All of it is an effort for more action toward stopping irreversible climate catastrophe. In 2020, a Forbes article ranked JPMorgan Chase as the No. 1 contributor to the fossil fuel industry. The bank invested $268 billion in gas, coal and oil firms from 2016 to 2020, according to a Banking on Climate Change report.
“It’s a David and Goliath fight,” Califf said. “The fossil fuel industry is powerful. They shouldn’t make more profits. But solar and wind are becoming more common, and we cannot give up. We elders won’t give up.”
She and Glick have a young grandson, and most of the other senior protestors have grandchildren as well.
“We’re going to be creative because 98 percent of us have grandchildren,” Califf said. “We want them to have a future, and they won’t if this extreme weather continues.”
Photos Courtesy of Jane Califf and Melinda Tuhus