Hundreds of Baltimore students left class and walked to City Hall on Friday to demand local and national leaders take action to lessen the impact of climate change.
The protests are part of the Global Climate Strike, a youth-led mobilization to advocate for an end to fossil fuel use ahead of an emergency United Nations climate summit. On Friday, organizers rallied marches in more than 150 countries. More than 800 marches occurred in the U.S.
Students from Roland Park Country School, the Bryn Mawr School, the Gilman School and the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute marched from north Baltimore, joining students from other schools as they made their way to the Inner Harbor. Along the way, they decried capitalism and corporations broadly, and more specifically, the fossil fuel industry.
hundreds of high school students are marching down St. Paul, headed to City Hall as part of the Baltimore Climate Strike! pic.twitter.com/joPH3kxDNA
— emily sullivan (@emilyasullivan) September 20, 2019
From there, students marched to the steps of City Hall. Students as young as 11 lined up for an open mic and discussed everything from rising oceans to intersectionality to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos — a lack of action from previous generations being the most constant theme.
“We’re told to look up to the adults in the world,” said Sophia, who didn’t give her last name but said she is in the eighth grade at the Park School. “What adults? The ones who sit there, prompting and denying [climate change]? If we want change, we have to work against the people who should be standing behind us.”
Many older generations say millennials and members of Generation Z are narcissists, said Veve Atonye, a junior at the Park School of Baltimore. But she rejected that assumption.
“This is not about me and it’s not about you,” she said. “This is about the Earth that we have failed time and time again to protect, to respect and to love.”
Joshua Harris, who ran unsuccessfully as a Green Party candidate for mayor in 2016 and for the House of Delegates in 2018, praised the youth-led rally and said climate change is an issue just as relevant to Baltimore as crime or poverty.
“When you live in a community where you have to worry about how you're gonna feed your brother or sister, you may not have time to think about what the Earth's temperature is,” Harris said. “But climate change is something that impacts every single one of us here in Baltimore.”
Annie, who identified herself as a student at Baltimore City College, took the mic after Harris.
“We also have to remember… that climate change affects mostly people of color,” she said, referring to studies that show that communities of color are more likely to live near facilities that emit toxic chemicals and are less likely to receive immediate disaster response than white communities.
“That being said, I will see you nice white ladies at the next Black Lives Matter protest,” she said.
Many students’ speeches referred to Greta Thunberg, the Swedish 16-year-old climate change activist who has worked to raise global awareness of the risks posed by climate change.
Trinity Eimer, an organizer of the Baltimore Climate Strike and a senior at the Bryn Mawr School, told WYPR’s On The Record that Thunberg’s work is what pushed her into activism.
“Seeing someone who is so young and also so passionate really showed me that I could step up and make a difference in my own community,” Eimer said.
Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Sonja Brookins Santelises released a statement supporting the walkout and encouraging teachers to discuss climate change after the march.
“Our students have important things to add to the nationwide conversation about our roles and responsibilities in this global movement; as educators,” she said. “We have encouraged principals, particularly at middle and high schools, to make spaces and time available in their buildings for students to discuss the issue of climate change and to identify effective ways to advance their priorities.”
There were also Global Climate Strike rallies at several local college campuses, including at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Loyola University of Maryland and University of Maryland, Baltimore County hosted their own rallies.