Tens of Thousands of Youth Strike for Climate Change


Protesters chant while marching on Market Street. Staff Photo: Kate Hammond.

Kate Hammond, Online Editor

Organizers approximated around 40,000 people gathered in San Francisco on Sept. 20 to participate in the Youth Climate Strike occurring worldwide. Protesters called for significant political action on climate change and targeted companies such as Amazon, BlackRock and Bank of America. 

Protesters marched down Market Street, holding signs and chanting various slogans such as, “The wrong Amazon is burning. The wrong ICE is melting.” In addition, a call and response was started promoting the Green New Deal, a plan introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez of New York and Senator Edward J. Markey of Mass. to address climate change and economic inequality

Among the crowd was Tamalpais High School student Emily who said, “Today is the most important day to show your support for climate justice because we are on a high platform here and that is what protesting is all about,” she added,“I believe in getting the Green New Deal to be on an even higher platform so that Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein support and prioritize it.” 

The strike happened days before the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Sept. 23, where countries will gather in New York to increase their ambitions to restrain greenhouse gases under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. “I really hope that the countries that are meeting up next week [at] the summit, will actually go over what they are doing to fight this climate change and actually meet the expectations they talked about in the Paris Agreement,” said Gabriel Terra, a march attendee from Middle College High School.

Greenpeace, an international environmental activist organization with offices in over 39 countries, protested with  large black puppets depicting notable fossil fuel executives in black robes.. According to a member, this organization has attended “dozens” of protests and made several puppets that depict “different CEOs of fossil fuel companies who have the responsibility to act on climate [change].”

Greenpeace members march with a puppet of Darren Woods, CEO of ExxonMobil. Staff Photo: Kate Hammond.

Many attended the strike due to a feeling of global climate injustice that wasn’t being taken seriously.. “I was working in Central America with a wildlife sanctuary, and you just start seeing how mass extinction is affecting all of us.” Terra said. “It is also pollution, ocean acidification and carbon emissions that impacts us, but we have not done much about it.” 

Many activists felt that it is their generation’s issue. “This is our problem —  not [our elders’] — because they’re going to be dead by then. We are going to have to deal with their problems,” said marcher Veronica Savvis, an eighth-grader from Presidio Hill School. 

Joe Sweeney, a member of Youth vs Apocalypse, a group that led a section of the strike, said, “I am here for climate justice, migrant justice and for my children.” Many signs mentioned concerns about having children with climate change occurring. 

A protester marches with a sign expressing concern for having kids in the future. Staff Photo: Kate Hammond.

Alta Vista School, an independent junior K-8 school, decided to take all their fourth and fifth graders to the strike. “We had a student who brought this to our attention at the end of the summer, and we worked with her and her parents to incorporate [the strike] into our curriculum. It was a school-wide initiative that our fourth and fifth grades were interested in participating in because it’s a global movement,” Alta Vista teacher Danny Blom said. One fourth grade marcher named Rose from Alta Vista School noted that she felt empowered by participating. 

Fourth-graders from Alta Vista School protest as a part of a school-wide initiative. Staff Photo: Kate Hammond.

Retired science teacher and marcher Tom Mullen believes voting is the remedy to achieving any success. “I hope it moves people to action. “It’s going to take the political will of massive people to make it very clear, but just because 80% of the people believe one way, it doesn’t mean the politics will go that way.” 

Many students skipped school to attend the strike. “I always [ask] people […] what really is the point of going to school if we will not have a plan to exercise our education?” Terra said, “We won’t have school if we don’t have an environment.”

“It seems to me that the earth is dying and that seems like it’s worth my time more than AP Chemistry,” said Berkeley High School student Ulysses Noë. “Berkeley [High School] is clearing all absences, no nobody’s getting marked out from today, but I am going to have to make up a lot of work.”  Many Bay Area high school excused absences today, including Menlo. 

Joe Sweeney, member of Youth Vs. Apocalypse, leads group in a chant. Staff Photo: Kate Hammond.

Genevieve Sae Chow from Oakland High School disregarded an essay deadline to attend. “Climate change is way more important than the letter in your grade.” 

Along the route, the protest stood outside Amazon Go Store to demand that the company decrease its dependency on fossil fuel companies, permit their workers to unionize and end its relations with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to CBS SF BayArea. The company BlackRock was also targeted at the protest, as it has millions of dollars invested in fossil fuels. Protesters chanted outside their office, “BlackRock BlackRock how much do you earn? You’re murdering our children while the Amazon burns.”

The strike was organized by the “Fridays For Future” campaign led by Greta Thunberg. The 16-year-old Swedish climate activist began skipping school on Fridays in August 2018 to protest outside of Swedish Parliament. Today, with the call to action from Thunberg, over 150 countries partook in the strikes globally.