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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

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Hundreds of protesters gather in park for global climate strike

<p>Richmond residents John Schengber (left) and TJ Rinoski stand with their signs during the climate strike in Monroe Park on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. The climate strike was part of a series of global climate strikes that took place in cities around the world this week.&nbsp;</p>

Richmond residents John Schengber (left) and TJ Rinoski stand with their signs during the climate strike in Monroe Park on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. The climate strike was part of a series of global climate strikes that took place in cities around the world this week. 

Hundreds of protesters gathered at Monroe Park on Friday evening to participate in the Global Climate Strike, a worldwide event aimed at raising awareness about climate change and organized locally by a coalition of environmental groups including Extinction Rebellion, the Sierra Club and Sunrise Richmond.

“There’s a lot of people who are just raring to go, to do something about the environment because they feel so impotent in the face of such a terrifying problem,” said Barry O’Keefe, a local coordinator for Extinction Rebellion and one of the main organizers of the Richmond strike. “Ultimately, the scientific consensus is so strong it’s really inevitable that we’ll either die or deal with the problem.” 

The strike was one of around 2,500 of its kind across the world and attracted people of all ages and backgrounds. 

In Richmond, protesters began gathering at the park around 5 p.m. and listened to a few speakers before heading on their march. 

“As an engineering student, I’m really for science and basing things off of fact and at this point, all of the facts point towards humans, since the Industrial Revolution, having a very significant impact on the state of the climate,” said John Gallagher, a mechanical engineering student at Virginia Commonwealth University. 

Gallagher carried with him a sign reading, “But what if the overwhelming evidence is wrong and we create a better world for us and our children for Nothing?!”

Nicholas Da Silva, 21, is a candidate for the 5th District on the Richmond City Council and spoke briefly before the march started. 

“Let us be the last generation to tell our children they are too entitled,” Da Silva said. “They’re entitled to a better world.” 

Despite being a non-partisan event, the march had a strong showing from members of the Democratic Socialists of America. When Da Silva was introduced as DSA candidate, he was met with resounding applause, and the park was filled with hisses and boos as he decried baby boomers and what he described as their capitulation to capitalism. 

“They gave in to fossil fuels, to capitalism, to politics of hate and stood in the way of progress,” Da Silva said, adjusting his grip on his megaphone. 

Juliana Rivett, a VCU student in the audience, said: “I think we need, honestly a political revolution at this point. Because I see our government as corrupt and people caring more about dollar bills than the people they’re supposed to be representing.” 

But organizers and attendees alike pointed out that climate should be a non-partisan issue. One marcher held aloft a sign reading, “Conservatives Wanted.” And O’Keefe said that he viewed the split over climate change as a generational difference, citing what he had seen as changing attitudes toward climate change among younger Republicans.

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Discontent with the establishment was the prevailing sentiment at the strike. One major issue of contention was what some characterized as an excessive coziness between Dominion Energy and Mayor Levar Stoney’s office and state officials. 

“I am no longer going to support a Republican, a Democrat or a fake doctor who will continue to pollute in these neighborhoods because ‘Dominion will give us money,’” said Lee Williams, a self-described environmental justice advocate and critical care nurse, referring to Gov. Ralph Northam. “He has broken his Hippocratic oath, and he is no friend of mine.” 

As the marchers left the park and filled the streets, they waved their signs and chanted, among other things, “When oceans rise…so do we!”

The march was also preceded by an event at noon, which was attended by around 300 people

Contact contributor Aquila Maliyekkal at aquila.maliyekkal@richmond.edu. 

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