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Thousands Of Young Activists Join Greta Thunberg In NYC Climate Strike


Thousands of young people assembled in Foley Square on Friday for a planned march in Lower Manhattan as part of a global climate strike. Outside of New York City, in a show of solidarity, protesters crammed into the streets around the world, from Mexico City to Berlin to Accra. 

Here in New York, early estimates from the Mayor’s Office said that at least 60,000 took part in the march. Organizers said it was closer to 250,000.

“Climate change is going to become irreversible in 11 years,” said Sabrina Lane, a student at West End Secondary School, who leaned over a police barricade to deliver her message to an NYPD officer. “It’s the biggest thing ever.”

She added: “I’m proud of our generation.”

The youth protests were the result of a call to action by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish activist who last month sailed to New York in an emissions-free yacht. At the end of the day, Thunberg, who participated in the strike, gave a powerful speech before the crowd of marchers at Battery Park.

“What is the point of educating ourselves and learning the facts when the people in power refuse to listen to the educated and pay attention to the facts,” she said. “Where I come from things are very different than here, but when it comes to the climate and ecological emergency, and the people in power, it is pretty much the same. In fact, everywhere I’ve been, the situation is more or less the same.”

She continued: “The people in power, their beautiful words are the same, the empty promises are the same, the lies are the same, and the inaction is the same. Nowhere have I found anyone in power who dares to tell it like it is, because no matter where you are, even that burden they leave to us, us teenagers, us children.”

City public schools gave student marchers the day off. Those who had their parents permission to participate in the event would have their absences excused. In response, kids as young as 8 came out in full force, hoisting handwritten signs with slogans like “There is no planet B.”

Peri Micheva, 15, of Ward Melville High School in Suffolk County, held a sign that said, “Why the fuck are we studying for a future that we don’t even have?”

Amid the smell of burning sage and the strains of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” activists of various stripes and experience levels rubbed shoulders. One group, indigenous activists from across the Americas united under the banner of the Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples, and wore their respective ceremonial dress. Elsewhere, young parents banded together in the park at Foley Square to corral their small children, many of whom had already formed their own opinion.

“The whole world is going to get hotter, the ice caps will melt, and maybe our city will be underwater,” said eight-year-old Desmond Hersey.

Older students criticized their parents’ and older generations for being complacent in the face of a problem that’s been well-documented since before they were born.

“They’re too relaxed about it and they’re pushing the problem onto us,” said Grace Conde, 17, a student at Fusion Academy.

A U.N. Climate Summit is slated for September 23. But whether world leaders will match the level of urgency felt by today’s young protesters remains to be seen, said Ayan Gerard, 17, a student at Hunter College High School. Gerard said she’s skipped school once before, as part of the March 2018 student walkout against gun violence, and felt disheartened by the lack of follow-through. She fears the same thing will happen again.

Others were more optimistic.

“It’s a vibe, it’s a feeling, it’s a change,” said Michelle Keller, 65, who said she was heartened and impressed by young people’s decisiveness and action.

Not everyone was there by choice. Kamani Young, 16, said he was only present because his whole class at the Academy for Young Writers in Brooklyn had attended as a group. Nonetheless, he was awestruck by the turnout. “People are actually coming together to save the earth,” he said.

“And we don’t have to be in school,” one of his classmates added before vanishing into the throng.

Additional reporting from Jake Offenhartz.

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