Children with marker-stained hands, teenagers in black leather jackets and retirees with specks of gray hair crowded shoulder to shoulder in front of Gainesville City Hall Friday.
About 300 locals gathered for Gainesville’s Global Youth Climate Strike, which urged UF, Gainesville and federal leaders to institute more sustainable energy practices. Protesters participated in the strike in preparation for the UN Climate Summit in New York City Monday.
The chants led by strike organizer Anton Kernohan echoed the voices of those from Miami to Tokyo.
“What do we do when our planet is under attack?” Kernohan said.
“Stand up, fight back!” the crowd shouted.
Kernohan, a 20-year-old UF political science sophomore, and 16 other speakers demanded a stop to the burning of fossil fuels, a Green New Deal and a 100% renewable economy.
“People need to realize that we have a deadline and that we need to take action to save our planet and our world,” Kernohan said.
Although the strike took place during school hours around the globe, the Gainesville strike started at 5 p.m. because Kernohan wanted it to be an intergenerational event, he said. He wanted adults from local environmental organizations to promote themselves to Gainesville’s youth.
Kernohan enlisted Climate Action Gators and the Alachua County Branch of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program to help plan the event. He said the number of people in attendance increased six-fold compared to the previous Global Youth Climate Strike in March, surpassing his expectations.
Gainesville City Commissioner David Arreola said Friday’s strike was the largest gathering of young people in front of City Hall he has seen. He spoke about the urgency to act now and to implement a federal Green New Deal.
“The only way we’re going to save our environment is if we save our democracy,” Arreola said.
Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, sparked the global climate movement after she protested in front of Sweden’s parliament a year and a half ago, according to the Associated Press. She called Congress to action Wednesday, according to the New York Times.
Caroline Pope, a 21-year-old UF sociology senior and student speaker, said climate change can often disproportionately affect women. She said 83 percent of single mothers were displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, according to a video by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“Women pave the way in so many different social issues,” Pope said. “So why don’t we start prioritizing the one that affects every single human on the planet?”
Damon Veras, an 18-year-old UF political science freshman, stood among the crowd while holding a cardboard sign which read in green and black lettering, “Keep the world clean, it’s not Uranus.”
“I came out because I believe that climate change is the issue of our generation -- is the issue of now,” he said. “Not enough people are talking about it or taking it seriously.”