Thousands of Chicagoans marched and rallied across the city Friday as part of a massive global day of action to demand governments take action on climate change.
“My generation deserves a sustainable future. We are calling on the government to fight for us,” said Lauren, a senior at Illinois science and Math Academy. “We need to act fast. We can’t wait for policy to come. Our futures, our lives, are on the line.”
Actions began as early as 7:00am in the city, with several morning demonstrations feeding into a large march that began in Grant Park near noon, culminating in a large rally in Federal Plaza at noon.
Local organizers estimate at least 3,000 people turned out in Chicago for the rally, while organizers of the global actions estimate at least 4 million demonstrated in more than 150 cities.
Dubbed the global climate strike, the youth-led movement grew out of a series of protests called #FridaysForFuture, which began in August 2018 when 15 year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg protested in front of the Swedish parliament every schoolday for three weeks.
In Chicago, demonstrators chanted “reduce, reuse, recycle, resist,” “the oceans are rising and so are we,” and “Donald Trump hey you, we deserve a future too.”
Demonstrators, particularly younger students, said they’re tired of governments dragging their feet in taking meaningful action on a global issue that affects their future.
“Our government’s lack of action on climate change is devastating. We should be terrified, we should be angry that we have to skip school to fight for our lives,” said Lauren. “We should be angry that people have to take off work to demand to have a life their kids can live. This is absurd that we have to be here. I should be at school taking a math quiz. I should be at school learning about history, I shouldn’t have to demand for their to be a history left for us.”
How to address climate change has become one of the hottest political topics in both the upcoming 2020 Presidential election, and across the globe. That governments have either been slow to act or even refused to acknowledge its very existence in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence has become a flashpoint for young activists demanding not just a better future, but any future at all.
“Our lives, our future, have been twisted into this binary political system,” said Samantha Taylor, another student. “This isn’t about being Democratic, Republican, Liberal, or Conservative. This is a humanitarian crisis that in the end will affect us, our families, and every aspect of nature we continue to take for granted. How much longer do we have to scream, march, and sacrifice our right to an education to be heard by the people above us?”
Chicago Public schools students who participated in the demonstration but did not return to class afterward would be given an unexcused absence, according to District officials. At the rally in Federal Plaza, Kina Collins, a community organizer, called that shameful.
“Some elected officials, teachers, and administrations who didn’t excuse your absence today will say you’re wasting time being here,” she said. “Shame on them.”
Angela Diaz, a sophomore at Chicago’s Lane Tech said that if she had a dollar for every time politicians talked up youth as being “the future,” she would quickly have enough money to help solve the climate crisis.
If I had a dollar for every time I was told that the youth was our future, I’d have enough money to fund the current state of our climate crisis until it was no longer a problem,” said Diaz. “If I was given a dollar for every time a government official used the phrase ‘the youth is our future’ to their convenience I’d have enough money not only to get this country out of the climate crisis, but to relieve our country of our $22 trillion debt.”
Diaz also had a message for older generations that often grouse about America’s youth, particularly given the world they’ve left their children.
“You call us the generation with a screen addiction, the generation with no real sense of how the world works, and the generation that gets everything handed to them,” said Diaz. “The only thing being handed to us is a world with dents and cracks, a world struggling to reach a new day as time goes on. The only thing we don’t understand about the world is why the majority of our government is letting us down day by day.”