Los Angeles was one of many cities around the world joining the largest protest against climate change in history.
Over 10,000 people ranging from retired Baby Boomers to Generation Z students who walked out of class gathered at Pershing Square in Los Angeles Friday. Organizers have encouraged people in the days leading to the strike to take off work and school to show their support that something needs to be done to combat climate change.
Among the chants against climate change and protesters blocking traffic was 15-year-old Madeline White, a high school student from Whittier. She and her friends had taken the day off from school to protest.
“We’re sick of it!” White exclaimed while the sounds of helicopters echoed in the square. “We haven’t seen anything done about global warming at all. This is our chance to show people in office that we really want better environmental standards.”
Paula Diaz, who had helped organize smaller protests in past years, also told the Globe about the protest.
“What we’re doing here today is to tell the world, along with Mexico City and London and all the other cities joining together with strikes, that we want change,” Diaz said. “The UN is hearing this soon and we need to show that even large polluting countries like the U.S., the citizens living in it want change too.”
What Diaz and many other strikers meant in referencing the UN is the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York City. Held next week, members of the United Nations will be upping the ante on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and raise standards even more. The United States had come under fire in 2017 for withdrawing from the agreement, and the Summit next week is seen by many as another shot in joining a climate change agreement.
Several protesters in Los Angeles were also focusing on California’s contributions to climate change. Star Martin, a striker from Reseda who left work for the day, was handing out pamphlets showing previous California governors environmental records.
“Every governor has said they’re going to do a lot, but they have just signed a few laws or converted to an electric car,” said Martin. “California is a huge contributor to carbon emissions. We need to strive to be carbon neutral, not adding more to the problem.”
Organizers had to interrupt several speeches to move the crowd as per police instructions. So many more protesters than planned had come out that a block of Hill Street had to shut down, with adjacent South 5th Street, a street ordered by police to stay open, intermittently closed by new protesters who showed up.
As cars in the street honked, protesters were moved back while chanting “Greta Thunberg!” referencing the Swedish student who first started a climate change strike in Stockholm and helped inspire young people around the world to do the same.
The strike, while causing major traffic issues in Los Angeles and occasionally blocking off streets that weren’t permitted to be blocked off, was largely peaceful. With high turnouts across the world factoring into the millions, including 1.1 million schoolchildren in New York receiving the day off to protest if they so chose, organizers have called the protest a success.
“This is the first wave,” said Diaz as she watched police herd more protesters from a street that wasn’t blocked off. “This is day one. We’ll be keeping the pressure on for a week. We really need to show lawmakers around the world that this is do or die. Literally.”