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Thousands of Young New Yorkers March for Climate Action

Thousands of Young New Yorkers March for Climate Action

Protesters made their way toward lower Manhattan’s Foley Square, chanting “The oceans are rising and so will we!”

An estimated 250,000 New York City students and activists took to the streets of lower Manhattan on Friday, Sept. 20 to demand worldwide climate justice. The march underscored with chants and song was just one of many demonstrations scheduled in 150 countries as part of the Global Climate Strike.

Strikers gathered at Foley Square then marched down Broadway to a rally in Battery Park where they heard from several speakers, including Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden who began the movement to strike school on Fridays known as Fridays For Future.

Thunberg’s Fridays For Future approach echoed throughout the march, with signs reading “WE’D BE IN SCHOOL IF YOU DID YOUR JOB,” and “WE’RE DITCHING SCHOOL BECAUSE YOU’RE DITCHING OUR FUTURE.”

The students missed a day of school to join the strike. The absence was pre-approved by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who announced on Thursday, Sept. 12 that the city’s public school students participating in the strike would not be penalized, so long as they received parental consent. Teachers and other school educators, however, were not permitted to attend.

“It’s weird that we have to skip school to save our lives,” said a 13-year-old student from the Baccalaureate School for Global Education in Queens. “I hope politicians listen to us.”

The official Global Climate Strike demand calls for ending the use of fossil fuels like coal and petroleum. Protestors emphasized several other issues, including sea level rise, pollution, the agricultural industry, excessive meat consumption, and corporate corruption.

Carole Yancey, 78, pushed through the crowd of young people on a walker and waited hours for the march to begin. “I am overwhelmed,” she said about witnessing a youth-led climate movement. “I feel like crying.”

Around her, people chanted, “the oceans are rising and so will we.”

While other demonstrations are expected to occur between Sept. 20 and Sept. 27, the NYC strike was purposefully set three days before the Climate Action Summit at the U.N. headquarters so that global leaders could witness the mass mobilization.

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Bronx kids demand action at global climate strike

Thousands of young New York City school children rallied for the Youth Climate Strike on Sept. 20 in Manhattan’s Foley Square.

A lively sea of young activists gathered near Foley Square in lower Manhattan on Sept. 20 to call for increased environmental protection, just days before global leaders are expected to meet to discuss plans to reduce carbon emissions at the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Sept. 23 in New York City.

The youth climate strike, which drew crowds that stretched several blocks on Friday afternoon, was led by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, a widely known climate activist from Sweden who has become the face of the movement to combat global warming. Thunberg, who crossed the Atlantic by sailboat and arrived in N.Y. on Aug. 28, was joined by thousands of the city’s 1.1 million school children who were given official permission to ditch class to take part in the peaceful march.

Event organizers estimate that more than 3 million demonstrators turned out at more than 2,000 locations across all seven continents.

Although Thunberg’s presence drew special attention, the strike held in New York City was of particular importance to a group of high school students who traveled to the march not by sailboat, but by southbound subway— 15 miles from the Bronx.

“We’re just trying to come together to make a difference,” said Katie Cruz, a 15-year-old activist from Throggs Neck, a neighborhood in the South Bronx. “It really means a lot to be here and show that we have a voice.”

While the images often associated with climate change are those of melting glaciers, burning forests and endangered species, air pollution is “a leading environmental threat to the health of urban populations,” according to a report published by NYC.gov.

The worst air quality in New York City is that in the South Bronx, where asthma is widespread, and treatment is costly and limited.

Members of Peace by Piece, a youth led organization that addresses issues of social justice through art in the Bronx, organized a meet-up for Bronx students at the climate march on Sept. 20.

“I walk through the streets and see smog,” said Cruz, who suffers from the respiratory condition. “My grandma also has asthma. Walking is so hard for her, and she always feels so out of breath when she’s outside.”

Several studies have shown that climate change is a major contributor to social inequality, and UN research conducted in 2017 concluded that the negative impacts of pollution disproportionately impact already vulnerable communities.

Yarmis Cruz (no relation to Katie), said that’s why it was so important to her to show up and march.

“Minority voices are often covered up by the majority, and our demands aren’t always the same as those more privileged than we are,” said Cruz, a 17-year-old from Morrisania. “I think that it’s important for us to make sure that people know that we want equity, we don’t just want equality. There’s no reason why lower income communities shouldn’t get the same benefits of a clean environment that make healthy living possible.”

Cruz said she’s noticed a growing social justice movement among young people in the Bronx, and that the representation at the climate march serves as a good indicator.

“Most of my friends are from the Bronx, and they are here, and they are speaking out, and they’re marching,” said Cruz. “It’s nice to see a little diversity.”

“We’re standing up for our futures. We deserve to be heard,” she said.

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