Home City Athens students, residents join together to strike for climate action

Athens students, residents join together to strike for climate action

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Athens locals came together Friday morning to participate in the Sept. 20 climate strikes, a global demonstration meant to pressure the world’s governments into taking action on the climate crisis.

Activists from the Village Bakery & Cafe, a coffee shop on East State Street, hosted the demonstration. A number of local political groups attended, with the Ohio University Sierra Student Coalition and activist groups like Democracy Over Corporations hosting booths in front of the bakery. The Athens Revolutionary Socialists organization attended in large numbers, as did local citizens who work in green energy or sustainability. 

Organizations held informational booths outside Village Bakery. Photo by Tim Zelina.

Pat McGee, an independent Athens council member, and Ellie Hamrick, an independent socialist currently campaigning for City Council, both made appearances at the strike to show their support.

Most of the attendees, however, were not affiliated with any activist group, nor involved in any broader sustainability efforts. Rather, they were students or residents of Athens wishing to show their solidarity on climate action. 

A sign advocating for solar power. Photo by Tim Zelina.

Tyreek Lenard, a graduate student pursuing a masters in social work, said he was inspired to join the strike by the passion of the youth. 

Tyreek Lenard. Photo by Tim Zelina.

“I think it’s really important to support youth and younger people who are getting more involved in movement work,” he said. “Personally, I came out here to show my support for full-scale reimagining of systems.”

One striker, Amy Delach, joked that her presence in the strike was a bit ironic, as it’s her job to combat climate change. She works as a policy director for Defenders of Wildlife, an organization that works to help ecosystems and animals adapt to the changing climate. 

A potluck brunch kicked off the event. Attendees were offered free coffee and assorted foods. A majority of the strikers broke off to plant a tree as a symbolic gesture of their commitment to a greener world.

A man tends to saplings distributed to marchers at the event’s end. Photo by Tim Zelina.

The marchers then returned to Village Bakery, where they gathered to hear a number of speakers, the majority being resident students college aged or younger. 

Organizers of the event prepare the mic for guest speakers. Photo by Tim Zelina.

The youngest, Iris Cooke, is in middle school. She spoke of her anxiety of climate change but remained optimistic in spite of it.

“I think that if I wasn’t scared and no one else was scared, we wouldn’t be doing anything, and nothing would change,” Cooke said.

The crowd listens as organizer Michelle Greenfield speaks on climate action. Photo by Tim Zelina.

Elle Dickerman, an Ohio U student majoring in environmental studies, kicked off the speeches with a message of hope. 

“Youth-led climate strikes like this one are demonstrating the importance of climate action. United across state and international borders, we cannot be stopped in our mission to protect our future, and there’s no time to lose,” she said.

Hamrick also addressed the crowd, though she did not mention her campaign for City Council. She instead focused her message on her belief that climate change can only be mitigated by abolishing capitalism. 

Independent socialist candidate Ellie Hamrick speaks to strikers. Photo by Tim Zelina.

“This story isn’t as simple as humans versus nature. The truth is, ladies and gentlemen, it is not humanity, but specifically the ruling class that is to blame for climate change and the broader ecological catastrophe unfolding around us,” she said.

John Howell, an organizer with Democracy over Corporations, proposed a reformation of the financial system to combat climate change, arguing current ways of raising revenue are not sufficient for fighting climate change. 

John Howell speaks to climate strikes about his organization’s proposal to reform the monetary system. Photo by Tim Zelina.

A common theme in the speeches was dissatisfaction with current action on climate change by governmental bodies. 

“I am out of school because I am out of patience,” said Antonia Sigmon, a student at Ohio U.

At the conclusion of the speeches, strikers gathered to march Uptown to demonstrate against climate inaction. A group of bicyclists vowed to “take over the streets for a day” from the motorists, as organizer Michelle Greenfield put it. 

Cyclists gather to ‘take over the streets’ during the climate strike. Photo by Tim Zelina

Marchers on foot, meanwhile, held signs and chanted slogans as they paraded into town. Numerous motorists honked and shouted in support of the demonstrators.

Climate strikers demonstrate on East State Street.

The march uptown marked the end of the event, protestors dispersing afterwards.

Greta Thunberg, a teenage climate activist who played a major role in planning and executing the strikes, tweeted that some 3 million people joined the strikes in Europe and Australia alone.

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