Thousands of Boston students were dismissed from school on Friday to rally at the Climate Strike in front of City Hall—one of the 1,100 strikes held last week, according to Strike With Us. Students from over 150 nations organized strikes urging their governments to address climate change in anticipation of the United Nations’ 2019 Climate Summit.
In one of the largest youth-led movements in the city’s history, people from all across the Boston area gathered at City Hall Plaza on Friday to protest government inaction against climate change. The crowd, mostly made up of high school and college students in bright t-shirts and vans, rallied around three demands: that Governor Charlie Baker declare a statewide climate emergency, that congressmen and women pass policies to benefit residents in poor and polluted areas, and that the state stop using fossil fuels.
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“I am striking because I think that we have this opportunity, finally, to be able to express ourselves and have a voice and show our politicians that we care about this crisis and they should too,” said Anjali Mitra, a senior at Brookline High School.
“So I’m here to show up for all of the people who can’t be here today who are affected by climate change, and I am here to show that our politicians need to stand up for us and our generation.”
Students left class, and the movement began around 10 a.m. with community events like craft activities, organization tabling, and poster-making. The rally began at 11:30 a.m. at City Hall with numerous speakers, from students to government officials.
At 1:30 p.m., the group mobilized, marching to the Massachusetts State House. Around 100 students marched inside to hold a mini-rally, while the rest assembled around the Brewer Fountain, chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, climate change has got to go!” as a marching band played along.
“The best part of today is seeing the group moving together from City Hall Plaza to the State House. It is a very organic, peaceful, and process,” said Nora, a Boston lawyer and a volunteer for the U.S. Youth Climate Strike.
“I am very motivated by the youth, and I am happy to be a supportive martial or a legal observer for a youth-led movement such as this one.”
As the protest went on, Addy, a high school student at Concord Academy in Concord, Mass., climbed on the steps by the State House. She proudly chanted, “Is this what democracy looks like?” to which a group of protestors would respond with enthusiasm, “This is not what democracy looks like!”
“The best part of the Climate Strike is how many people came out,” Addy said. “Being a part of this movement is just something that gratifies me. In the same way, it gratifies other people. I feel like that is what counts.”
Audrey, an 18-year-old from Watertown, Mass., and Amalia Hochman, a 17-year-old from Somerville, Mass., acted as hosts. Michelle Wu, an at-large Boston City councilor, took to the stage and said she was there on behalf of her colleagues. She rode in to the protest on the bus and the Orange Line, she said, where she met students with a “Climate Now, Homework Later” sign.
“We are here on a work day, on a weekday, on a school day,” Wu said to a cheering crowd. “We’re here because science is being ignored. We’re here because people are being ignored for the profits of fossil fuel companies.”
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Other speakers included Gina McCarthy, former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator and current director of Harvard C-CHANGE; Saya Ameli Hajeb, a 17-year-old from the Sunrise Movement; Jeremy Ornstein, an 18-year-old from the Sunrise Movement; Ahria Ilyas, an 18-year-old representative of Youth-On-Board representative; Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, an advocate for ecological justice; Mayor Martin J. Walsh, BC ’09 ; and Hartman Deetz of the Mashpee-Wampanog tribe.
Those in charge of organizing the strike weere predominantly local youth—the Climate Strike has been inspired by Greta Thunberg, a Swedish climate activist. Two high school students—Hochman, and 16-year-old Saraphina Forman of Northampton, Mass.—spearheaded the movement that was led by Massachusetts Climate Strike.
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Some schools, including Boston public schools and the Brookline district, excused student absences on account of the strike if students provided notes from parents.
While the largest group of strikers gathered at the City Hall Plaza and the Massachusetts State House, smaller groups met in Cambridge, Great Barrington, Worcester, Acton, and Boston College. BC students gathered on the Gasson Quad to protest before they left for the Boston march.
“Some of us just want to get out the message that, you know, climate action is important,” said Kyle Rosenthal, spokesman for Climate Justice at BC and CSOM ’21. “And that can be a message both to students and administrators. Obviously, climate justice, we do have that specific goal of divestment. And we want to let administrators and trustees know that we have a large presence.”
Along with the many student demonstrators who came out to the Boston strike on Friday, there were many parents who brought their young children to witness the events unfold.
“I want them to learn how to represent their world,” said a local Boston mother who brought her 9- and 11-year-old sons. “I want them to learn unity consciousness [and] how to stand up for human and social rights.”
Images by Meegan Minahan / Heights Editor