Robert Kapito, president of investment company BlackRock, was interrupted by climate protesters on Feb. 16 while speaking at a financial conference in Manhattan.
“Do you not feel that you guys have the responsibility to lead and transition out of fossil fuels?” asked a demonstrator before he was escorted out of the Bank of America Securities Financial Services Conference, according to a video of the protest.
A live webcast of the conference covered the interruptions with music as a number of protestors asked Kapito similar questions. The demonstration was organized by New York Communities for Change (NYCC), a community organizing group that advocates on climate, housing and immigrant issues.
While the five NYCC protestors who crashed the conference were escorted out of the building after ten minutes of demonstrations, there were no arrests.
BlackRock was targeted because of its vast investments in fossil fuels, including “corporations like beleaguered coal company Adani and fossil fuel expansion projects like the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline,” read an NYCC press release. The company has invested $170 million in U.S. energy companies like pipelines and power generation facilities, according to a statement issued by BlackRock in response to concerns it was boycotting oil and gas companies.
BlackRock did not respond to requests for comment from the Observer, but on its website noted its commitment to have 75 percent of its assets invested in issuers with commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
This isn’t the first time BlackRock has been the subject of climate protests. In October, NYCC activists dumped coal in the lobby of BlackRock’s Manhattan headquarters. Later that month, the group held a demonstration outside the home of Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of private equity firm Blackstone, brandishing pitchforks to protest the company’s fossil fuel investments. And in July, NYCC activists shut down the East Hampton airport with demands to tax the area’s wealthy residents, which they argued are responsible for growing climate emissions.
NYCC receives the same funding as European museum protestors
The group was first organized in 2010 as an offshoot of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a community organization network which began in the 1970s and at one point had more than 500,000 members. NYCC was founded by former ACORN organizers like Jon Kest, who also founded the Working Families Party.
In 2009, ACORN shut down after a controversial video from right-wing group Project Veritas, where conservative activists disguised as a pimp and prostitute secretly filmed ACORN workers offering them tax advice. “ACORN was cleared of all wrongdoing, but the organization did not survive the negative publicity and disbanded,” reads a statement on NYCC’s website.
Now rebranded as NYCC, the community organization counts 20,000 activists in its membership who pay annual dues to the group. NYCC also received more than $2.7 million in funding for 2020, according to tax filings.
A significant portion of this funding comes the Climate Emergency Fund, said Alice Hu, a climate campaigner at NYCC. The Los-Angeles-based fund was co-founded by Rory Kennedy, daughter of Senator Robert Kennedy, and Aileen Getty, granddaughter of oil tytcoon Jean Paul Getty. It’s been the primary supporter for groups behind radical climate protests in the past few months, including a series of demonstrations in Europe where activists targeted artwork in museums.