Climate actions draw tens of thousands in northern California
Marilyn Bechtel/PW

SAN FRANCISCO – The heart of this city rang with their chants Sept. 20, as young climate strikers and their older allies packed its main thoroughfare, Market Street, demanding that political and corporate leaders at home and around the world act quickly and boldly to halt and reverse the mounting environmental destruction threatening Planet Earth.

Young people of all ages, from toddlers in their parents’ arms to grade school, middle and high school students marching together with their teachers were accompanied by older marchers bearing banners proclaiming the solidarity of environmental, community, peace, racial justice, and many other organizations.

A large labor contingent was endorsed by the San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa Labor Councils and included participants from many unions – among them SEIU Local 1021,  California Nurses’ Association/National Nurses United, UNITE HERE and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

Marilyn Bechtel/PW

Organizers estimated total participation at 40,000, making it the largest action in northern California.

The kickoff event for a week of climate actions began outside the San Francisco office of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and passed the office of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, with participants calling on both to back the Green New Deal legislation introduced into Congress by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY and U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

As marchers wound their way through the city’s financial district, they also targeted Bank of America, Amazon Go convenience stores, the investment firm Black Rock, and the utility Pacific Gas & Electric with demands including divesting from fossil fuels.

At ICE’s San Francisco Enforcement and Removal Operations Field Office protesters equated climate justice and migrant justice.

Throughout, youth were in the lead and made sure their voices were heard by the many media present.

Sadie Scott, a 17-year-old San Franciscan, told CBS, “We’re about 10 years behind in terms of the actions we should be taking to stop climate change. And so one day of disruption to change the entire planet feels like not even close to the risk of the price we should be paying for all of our actions and the contributions we have made toward ending it.”

Eighth-grader Lily Salazar, from Oakland’s St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Oakland, told the Mercury News she wanted to warn politicians that she and her peers “are going to be the voters” and the changing climate matters. “It’s our futures – if we don’t stand up now then eventually it will be too late. We’ll have to live with it.”

The level of participation by high school and younger students was remarkable despite discouraging messages from many schools. While some districts, like Berkeley, did follow New York City’s example and okay participation by students whose parents agreed, others including San Francisco, Oakland and Fremont said they would record such absences as unexcused, citing safety concerns and noting that school districts lose funds for every day a student isn’t in class.

Marilyn Bechtel/PW

Other climate strike actions took place in at least two dozen Bay Area locations, including San Jose, Berkeley, Oakland, Richmond, San Mateo, and Mountain View.

Among dozens more rallies and marches throughout northern California was one at the State Capitol in Sacramento, that drew around a thousand participants, according to the Sacramento Bee. Speaking after Mayor and former state legislative leader Darrell Steinberg, 13-year-old Supriya Patel, who founded that city’s chapter of the youth climate action group Fridays for Future, read her open letter to the state’s politicians.

“With rampant political inaction, and statistics offering dire warnings, our fate can seem bleak,” Patel told them, “and the crisis can seem too enormous to wrap our heads around. Our adult leaders have failed us thus far … We need action because our lives are not a political game. The fight for climate justice is one that we cannot afford to lose.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Marilyn Bechtel
Marilyn Bechtel

Marilyn Bechtel writes for the People’s World from the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined the PW staff in 1986, and currently participates as a volunteer.

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