Around the world Friday, students are leaving class, employees are walking out of offices and those at home are stepping outside. This daytime pause isn’t an act of truancy. People are taking to the streets around the globe to demand climate action.
Here’s what you need to know:
- 3 million demonstrators in 150 countries are expected to take part in the Global Climate Strike, according to 350.org, one of the groups organizing the strike.
- The youth-led demonstration is advocating for things like implementing the Green New Deal, restoring biodiversity and respecting Indigenous land.
- The strike comes less than a week before the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York.
- The youth climate movement has largely been inspired by Swedish student Greta Thunberg, who began protesting climate inaction outside her country’s parliament last year.
- Read more about what you can expect from the hundreds of strikes across the country, including in Boston, Washington, D.C., Seattle, and Anchorage, Alaska.
Seattle Update: 12:15pm PT (3:15pm EST)
By 11am, students took to a stage setup in the park to voice their fears and call for action. Leilah Amon-Lucas, 14, repeated a familiar line throughout her speech: She’s scared.
“I’m a teenager. I’m 14. And I’m so scared,” she said to an enthusiastic crowd of students and adults.
“2032 will only be the third presidential cycle that I can vote in. [From then], it’ll take two more presidential cycles until I’m old enough to run for president in 2040,” she said. “What will the world look like then?”
Olivia Schroeder, 17, asked for action.
“We don’t have a vote. We do have a voice,” she said. “So right now we are doing what we need to do. We are using that voice.”
The crowd erupted in applause. Schroeder continued by sharing her passion for marine conservation and her fear over rising oceans and dying marine life.
“I am striking because I believe in the power of youth, the power of this movement and in the power of advocacy as a whole,” she said.
“The point of this movement—the point of our movement—is to take charge and fight for the planet and fight for the future.”
— REI (@REI) September 20, 2019
Boston Update: 11:30am PT (2:30pm EST)
Walking from City Hall Plaza to the Massachusetts State House, coordinated chants burst forth from the crowd, including “Climate change is real, we need a Green New Deal!” and, “When our planet is under attack, what do we do? Stand up! Fight back!”
Demonstrators reached the State House shortly before 2pm local time, where the chants continued, with throngs of people stretching down Park and Tremont Streets.
“I’ve been increasingly worried about climate change for awhile now,” said Maggie Sullivan, 34, a lawyer from Boston. “That concern has escalated: One with the 2016 election, two with scientific reports that have been coming out and three with my decision to have kids—and my beautiful daughter. I want to do everything I possibly can.”
Sullivan also serves on the board of the Better Future Project. She began volunteering with 350.org in March of this year.
“I find the youth enthusiasm and push for action on [climate] so moving and inspiring,” she said. “There are so many people in lower-income communities [who] are going to be disproportionately affected by this problem,” she said, stressing that she wants to take action for those communities and for, “people like my daughter who have had no role in this whatsoever and are going to be faced with it with a vengeance.”
At the State House, Sarah Duckett, a Sunrise Movement volunteer marveled at the turnout. “Absolutely unbelievable,” she said. “I kept thinking back to all of the late nights I’ve had with my organizing friends, just deep in the weeds of [what] we were planning and it’s just been so much hard work and it feels like it’s all paying off.”
— Todd Liming (@ToddLiming) September 20, 2019
Washington, D.C. Update: 11am PT (2pm EST)
District of Columbia Public Schools confirmed to the Co-op Journal that students who attend the strike will receive an excused absence if they bring in a note from a parent or guardian within five days.
“DC Public Schools encourages students to exercise their First Amendment rights but also cares deeply about students’ instruction,” DCPS Press Secretary Shayne Wells said. He confirmed that schools are not encouraging students to attend the strike but they’re not stopping them from going either.
Lucy Upton, 14, a student at The Schools Without Walls in D.C., shared her reason for coming to the strike: “We deserve a future,” she said. “We didn’t mess up the world, but we should try to fix it somehow.” She thinks the climate strike will help motivate other students to speak up.
On the steps of the Capitol building, speakers continue to rally the crowds, including a group of students suing the U.S. government over climate change. The crowds remain heavy on the lawn, and the energy level is high.
— REI (@REI) September 20, 2019
Seattle Update: 10:30am PT (1:30pm EST)
At least 2,500 demonstrators—most of them students—gathered at Seattle’s Cal Anderson Park to spotlight climate change. By noon, they will march through the streets to protest climate inaction.
People donned homemade signs that said things like “Make the Earth Great Again” and “We’ll Rise with the Sea Levels.”
— Sarah Grothjan (@SarahGrothjan) September 20, 2019
Just before the action began, Athena Bautista of Seattle crouched on a flat stretch of ground to make a sign. With markers and a piece of cardboard, Bautista and her 4-year-old daughter, Konomie, wrote: “What’s Today with No Tomorrow?”
“(My daughter) is actually named after an island in Australia that may not exist in the future,” Bautista said as her daughter drew a pink flower on the sign.
Bautista, who has four kids, said she wants to show them they have the power to make a change.
Fiona McDaniel, 16, helped organize the day’s demonstrations. She said she’s happy to see so many people come together for the cause.
“Our party system is so polarized right now, and it’s affecting issues like this one, which shouldn’t be political. The climate is something everyone should care about,” McDaniel said.
Washington, D.C. Update: 10am PT (1pm EST)
— Amanda Loudin (@MissZippy1) September 20, 2019
The D.C. march has reached the steps of the Capitol. Students, parents and supporters are spread out on the lawn holding signs with slogans: “Too Hot to Handle,” “War Accelerates Climate Change,” “Green Muslims,” and many others. Depictions of climate scientists and heroes like Jane Goodall, John Muir and Wangari Maathai are also prominent.
In the midst of the protestors, a group of middle schoolers from nearby Bethesda, Maryland, spoke out about their reasons for being here: “I want to spread awareness and make a difference for future generations,” said 13-year-old Taylor Rosoff. “We only have one Earth and I want to take care of it.”
Speakers are reaching out to the crowds via bullhorns and microphones, leading chants and cheers.
Boston Update: 9:50am PT (12:50pm EST)
Still at City Hall Plaza, demonstrators hoisted signs and used noisemakers to cheer for speakers who took to the stage to rally the crowd. Saya Amelia Hajebi, 18, of the Sunrise Movement Boston addressed the crowd to draw attention to social inequity, stressing that it’s time for people to recognize the impact of climate change on communities of color, low-income groups and Indigenous lands.
“We all have a future to lose,” Amelia Hajebi said. “We don’t have time to waste.”
Other speakers included City Councilor Michelle Wu, former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Community Organizer Rev. Mariama White-Hammond. Jean-Luc Pierite of the North American Indian Center of Boston also presented.
— Cassie Moreno (@cassiejmoreno) September 20, 2019
Speaking about the challenge of addressing climate change on a policy level, McCarthy said, “It’s time for us to focus on these issues, do what’s right, do what’s just. Get angry, but get moving.”
Following the speeches, at 12:30pm, the youth took the stage again to announce a dance break.
Washington, D.C. Update: 8:45am PT (11:45am EST)
Thousands of students and adults have joined together today in D.C. to march from John Marshall Park to the Capitol. Many of the youth here have been part of similar strikes over the past year, but this is the biggest of its kind to date. “I hope that we can make people see that climate change is real and happening as we speak,” says Alyssa Reed, 15, of Westerville, Ohio. Reed traveled six hours from her home with her mother to be part of a larger movement.
— REI (@REI) September 20, 2019
Carrying signs, wearing T-shirts with climate-related slogans and moving en masse, the demonstrators are making their way to the Capitol, where speakers will address the crowds in the coming hours.
Boston Update: 7:45am PT (10:45am EST)
An hour before speakers are scheduled to begin presenting at a rally on Boston’s City Hall Plaza, crowds stretched across the plaza. Hundreds of young people and adults standing shoulder to shoulder raised signs and chanted along with climate strike organizers.
Audrey Lin, 18, a Boston strike organizer with the Sunrise Movement, was congregating with the other coordinators in her group. “I’ve been involved in Sunrise Movement Boston for the past year and a half or so but I didn’t start planning climate strikes until about May,” she said.
After organizing two strikes earlier this year at the Massachusetts State House, Lin and her peers began planning for the September 20 strike. “It’s our generation that’s going to be most affected by the decisions that are made right now,” she said. “I think it’s really important that young people are in the conversation because it’s our futures on the line.”
“We’re here right now and our entire organizing team is under the age of 20. Young people really are capable and fully able to be creating change and leading that change.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.
Dana Hatic, Amanda Loudin, Sarah Grothjan and Caitlin Goettler contributed to this report.