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Indian American Shayok Mukhopadhyay Says His Protest at US Open is Nothing Compared to Disruption Caused by Climate

Indian American Shayok Mukhopadhyay Says His Protest at US Open is Nothing Compared to Disruption Caused by Climate

  • The artist and documentary maker insists that Coco Gauff, whose match he interrupted, supports his protest and his cause.

The Indian American climate activist who glued his feet to the floor to protest climate change at Coco Gauff’s US Open semifinal game last week is insisting that the tennis player “supports” his protest, The Daily Mail reported. Shayok Mukhopadhyay, 50, of White Plains, New York, was among four protesters who disrupted the Sept. 7 match and were forcibly removed from the stadium by the New York Police Department. A day later, he and another protestor — Gregory Schwedock, 35, of New York City — were charged with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct and criminal trespass respectively. Their protests a day earlier had delayed the game by nearly 50 minutes, and the players left the court until play could resume. Extinction Rebellion, an environmental activist group, took credit for the protest and used the slogan “no tennis on a dead planet” to call for an end to fossil fuels.

He told The Daily Mail that “the disruption” at the Sept. 7 game “is nothing compared to the disruption caused by climate.” He told NBC News he glued his feet to the ground to “achieve a significant and sustained disruption that’s going to make people stop and think that business as usual cannot continue.” Noting that “there is no tennis on a dead planet, there is no art on a dead planet, he said, “Everything that we take for granted as our way of life will cease to exist.” 

After Mukhopadhyay was removed by the NYPD with acetone “to tear him away,” he was taken to East Elmhurst Hospital in Queens for psychiatric evaluation,” The Daily Mail report said. Speaking about his experience at the hospital, he told the New York Daily News that although he’s been arrested before, he’s never had this experience. “They were asking obvious leading questions like, ‘Do you think the world is going to end?’ This typical stereotype of the crazy, apocalyptic cult kind of thing.”

Shayok Mukhopadhyay graduated from the Documentary Photography and Photojournalism program at the International Center of Photography in New York.

He was eventually taken to the 111th Precinct in Bayside, where he spent several hours before leaving with a ticket. “This was completely a mechanism to intimidate and humiliate and to paint a distorted picture of me,” he told Daily News. He told the publication that it is not him but President Biden who’s the “crazy” person here. ‘It’s Biden who’s the crazy person here, who, in 2023, is approving new oil and gas projects when the International Energy Agency, founded by Henry Kissinger – no tree hugger – has said there should be no new fossil fuel infrastructure.”

Meanwhile, Gauff, who went on to win the US Open Women’s title, weighed in on the commotion during her semifinal game.  Speaking at a news conference post her match that she couldn’t get “too mad” at the antic because “it was done in a peaceful way,” doing that she “didn’t want it to happen when I’m winning 6-4 1-0 and I wanted to keep the momentum going,” However, she noted that “if that’s what they felt they needed to do to get their voices heard, I can’t really get upset at it.”

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An artist and documentary maker, Mukhopadhyay moved to New York 25 years ago from Kolkata, according to his website. He told Daily News that his hometown faces grave risks from climate change, motivating his art about rapidly rising temperatures and ecological threats to humanity.” He said “India is something I constantly think about because I grew up there, and I’m keenly aware of how low the level of resource consumption and energy consumption is there.” Mukhopadhyay said. Noting that “the Gangetic Delta, the mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, where the Ganges river empties into the Bay of Bengal are extremely vulnerable areas to climate change,” he said “they’re going to pay the price for this huge amount of resource and energy consumption in the global north. That injustice really, really horrifies me.”

He graduated from the Documentary Photography and Photojournalism program at the International Center of Photography in New York. His first solo show of photographs, Québec, took place at Katharine Mulherin Projects in Toronto in 2013. His installation, Back Home, was part of the 2017 Bronx Museum’s AIM Biennial exhibition. In 2019, he completed a six-month residency at Atelier Mondial, Basel; premiered his feature-length doc, GAUTAM & BUDDHA at the Transilvania International Film Festival; and had a solo show at DOCK, Basel titled Calcutta Corner. This was a site-specific installation using photographic and audio material.

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