Lawrence and KU activists join global Climate Strike Walkout

photo by: Ashley Golledge

Protesters participate in the climate strike Friday, September 20, 2019 on Wescoe Beach at the University of Kansas.

Activists converged on Lawrence City Hall on Friday to demand action on climate change — in solidarity with other activists around the world.

The Climate Strike Walkout, organized in part by Lawrence branches of the Sunrise Movement and The Sierra Club, united hundreds of people who left work, home or schools to gather at noon.

“If you’re not going to protest for this, I don’t know what you’d protest for,” said Casey Lee, who took the afternoon off from work so that he could attend. He also brought his daughters, Maya and Cami, who attend West Middle School.

“He brought up the idea, but we wanted to do it,” said Maya, an eighth grader. She invited classmates to join, and four did. The six girls stood on Sixth Street across from City Hall, and some cars honked as they drove by.

One of their posters read, “I like my guys hot, not my planet!”

A concurrent Climate Strike Walkout took place on Wescoe Beach at the University of Kansas, where about 75 students participated.

The crowd chanted “One earth, one love” and “We are unstoppable. A better world is possible.”

Sophomore Melek Ben-Ayed led the crowd in the chant “Save our planet.” He stepped up to address the assembly after students began yelling the phrase “Go back home” to a man students said regularly preaches religious messages on campus.

“We shouldn’t be chanting a chant that is related to racism, homophobia and xenophobia. No,” he yelled to the crowd. “We love each other, and we want a better future for each other.”

Hatred only separates people, Ben-Ayed said, and students need to fight together to enact change.

These events were part of a Global Climate Strike day. After Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg began skipping school on Fridays to stand in front of the Swedish parliament to protest against climate inaction, other students around the world have joined in her efforts.

Fridays for Future is a weekly movement that grew out of Thunberg’s actions in which students and adults protest outside their parliaments and city halls.

The Global Climate Strike was scheduled to coincide with the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. Saturday, youth leaders will gather at the Youth Climate Summit hosted at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. On Monday, also in New York, there will be a Climate Action Summit for world leaders. The first day of the General Debate will be Tuesday, Sept. 24.

Kate Lorenz, co-organizer of Sunrise Movement in Lawrence, said the walkouts were meant to show “solidarity with the youth strikers” and “that there is mass support for climate action.” They also planned to host a Climate Strike Rally at 5 p.m. Friday in South Park.

Tai Spann-Ryan, a teacher at Robinson Middle School in Topeka, got a substitute so he could take the day off and attend the Lawrence walkout outside City Hall. He said he hadn’t heard of a similar event happening in Topeka.

He’d been listening to Thunberg’s speeches and felt called to act.

“She wants adults to panic,” he said. As a teacher, he believes in the youth, he said, “so when I hear a young person asking adults to stand up for their lives, I have to do it.”

photo by: Ashley Golledge

Melek Ben-Ayed addresses the crowd of climate strike protesters Friday, September 20, 2019 on Wescoe Beach at the University of Kansas.

photo by: Ashley Golledge

Joe Douglas participates in the climate strike on Wescoe Beach Friday, September 20, 2019 on Wescoe Beach at the University of Kansas.

photo by: Ashley Golledge

Kate Lorenz addresses the crowd of climate strike protesters Friday, September 20, 2019 on Wescoe Beach at the University of Kansas. Lorenz was one of the local protest organizers.

photo by: Ashley Golledge

Protesters participate in the climate strike Friday, September 20, 2019 on Wescoe Beach at the University of Kansas.

photo by: Ashley Golledge

University of Kansas student Phetsalath Phansiri participates in the climate strike Friday, September 20, 2019 on Wescoe Beach at the University of Kansas.

photo by: Ashley Golledge

University of Kansas student Brandon Shannon participates in the climate strike Friday, September 20, 2019 on Wescoe Beach at the University of Kansas.

photo by: Ashley Golledge

University of Kansas student Kenzie Britton participates in the climate strike Friday, September 20, 2019 on Wescoe Beach at the University of Kansas.

photo by: Ashley Golledge

University of Kansas students participate in the climate strike Friday, September 20, 2019 on Wescoe Beach at the University of Kansas.

photo by: Ashley Golledge

University of Kansas student Estelle Lu participates in the climate strike Friday, September 20, 2019 on Wescoe Beach at the University of Kansas.

photo by: Ashley Golledge

University of Kansas student Brenna Regan participates in the climate strike Friday, September 20, 2019 on Wescoe Beach at the University of Kansas.

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