Detroit youth lead hundreds in Global Climate Strike march
Detroit — From downtown Detroit to across the globe, hundreds of thousands of young people took the streets Friday to demand that leaders tackle climate change in the run-up to a United Nations summit.
Many were children who skipped school to take part in the "Global Climate Strike."
"It's important for us to fight for our Earth and fight for our future," said Mariam Khan, 11, from Sterling Heights, who attended the march with her older sisters. "We need to stop using bottled water and invest in solar energy."
More than 500 protesters gathered at Grand Circus Park in downtown Detroit before marching on Woodward Avenue, stopping traffic during rush hour, on the way to Hart Plaza to rally.
Youth led the march along with a police escort calling for a Green New Deal, holding signs reading "Fight for our future," "Our home is on fire," "What is your plan?" and "Dinosaurs probably thought they had time too."
The Green New Deal is a congressional proposal that links reducing emissions connected to climate change with a list of economic stimulus ideas, anti-poverty efforts and a demand to give every American a job. Some analysts have contended the ideas could cost as much as $1 trillion, but the haziness of some ideas makes estimates difficult.
In Detroit, officials said they are fighting for those who have experienced water shut-offs and foreclosures due to high water bills, which surge during times of heavy rainfall.
"You'll have to look no further than the 48217, which is basically a sacrifice zone," said Valerie Jean, 44, an organizer with the People's Water Board. "They have to duct tape their windows due to very high levels of industrial pollution from corporate and facilities like Marathon. Corporations need to care they're polluting."
Events kicked off in Australia, where protesters marched in 110 towns and cities, including Sydney and the national capital, Canberra. Demonstrators called for their country, the world’s largest exporter of coal and liquid natural gas, to take more drastic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Organizers estimate more than 300,000 protesters took to Australian streets in what would be the country’s biggest demonstration since the Iraq War in 2003.
More than 2,500 events were expected in 150 countries worldwide Friday, according to the Associated Press.
Detroit was jam-packed Friday as the protesters halted traffic marching down Woodward Avenue. They paused chanting as they passed Campus Martius where the Detroit Youth Choir was celebrating its homecoming after competing in "America's Got Talent."
The protests are partly inspired by the activism of Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who has staged weekly demonstrations under the heading "Fridays for Future" over the past year, calling on world leaders to step up their efforts against climate change. Thunberg is expected to speak at the U.N. Climate Action Summit on Monday.
"For way too long, the politicians and the people in power have gotten away with not doing anything at all to fight the climate crisis and the ecological crisis, but we will make sure that they will not get away with it any longer," Thunberg told marchers Friday.
Leigh Stublefield of Macomb held a sign reading, "there's no wealth on a dead planet." She said Thunberg is inspirational, prompting her to call off of work Friday and join the march.
"I'm sick of nothing being done and this extreme weather is out of control," said Stublefield, 60. "What's going on in Houston, flooding and extreme conditions, are terrifying and it's only going to get worse I'm afraid."
Hundreds of rallies took place across Europe, including in the Czech Republic, Germany, Britain and Poland, which is still widely coal-reliant and where many middle schools gave students the day off to enable them to participate in the rallies in Warsaw and other cities.
In Berlin, police said more than 100,000 people gathered in front of the capital’s landmark Brandenburg Gate, not far from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office where the Cabinet thrashed out the final details of a 54 billion euro ($60 billion) plan to curb Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Smaller rallies were held in more than a dozen cities around Japan, including Kyoto, the nation’s ancient capital that hosted the 1997 climate conference.
Rallies were also held in Johannesburg and the South African capital, Pretoria, as well as Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, where some young protesters wore hats and outfits made from plastic bottles to emphasize the dangers of plastic waste, a major threat to cities and oceans.
Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change and the least equipped to deal with it, experts have said. Governments have pleaded for more support from the international community, the Associated Press reports.
Phoenix Macgregor from Lincoln Park held a map of the United States reading "Wake Up" in big bold red letters.
"I started celebrating Earth Day when I was a teenager. I'm 44 now and didn't think I'd ever have to," Macgregor said. "My daughter is 25, grandson is 5 years old. I'm here for them more than for me."
The Associated Press contributed.