Tens of thousands of New York City students descended on Lower Manhattan Friday as part of Climate Nexus’ Global Climate Strike.
The strike was held in concert with thousands of others around the world, ahead of the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit this weekend. But here in New York City, where more than a million students were given the day off from school, youth organizations and protestors showed out in huge numbers.
“I knew there would be a lot of people, but this is crazy,” said 15-year-old Juno Joseph. “It makes me proud to see something like this.”
One NYPD officer said police were told to expect around 1,000 people, but the crowd quickly exceeded those expectations. By 11 a.m., Foley Square was packed full of protestors as more streamed in by the thousands. By a quarter to noon, when festivities were set to begin, climate strikers overwhelmed the streets surrounding the square. Centre Street, the main thoroughfare leading to Foley Square from City Hall Park, quickly overflowed. Protestors teemed into the streets and temporarily blocked traffic. Groups of chanting students holding protest signs continued pushing forward, with crowds packed in as far south as Chambers Street.
Despite the swelling crowds, the mood on the streets was jovial. Students held up creative signs and routinely broke out into cheers. Groups started climate-related chants like “keep the oil in the soil” and “climate change is not a lie, please don’t let our planet die.” A “Fuck Trump” chorus even broke out early on, followed shortly after by a brief “Barack Obama” chant. Adults and children alike reveled in the scene. But even amongst the air of solidarity, young protestors’ frustration was palpable.
“We’re out here striking because we don’t have an option left,” said Shiv Soin. “We’re out here fighting and we won’t stop fighting until our demands get met.”
Unlike other global climate strikes held earlier this year, the New York City Climate Strike has a clear list of demands. They include an end to fossil fuel reliance, a fair transition for frontline communities, and holding major polluters accountable for climate damages.
Sarmishta Govindhan, the strike’s communications coordinator for 350, was impressed and encouraged by the huge turnout. But her enthusiasm was tempered with a sense of purpose.
“This strike is amazing, but it’s not the end goal,” she said. “We see this strike as a catalyst for bold climate action in the future.”