Students from Berkeley High School (BHS), as well as other Bay Area schools, participated in a climate strike on Friday, August 27.
The strike protested Pipeline 3, California State Teachers’ Retirement System’s (CalSTRS) support of the fossil fuel industry, and the lack of action regarding unsafe conditions around the Hunters’ Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco, according to protesters.
An estimated 500 people attended the strike, which began at 10 AM at the San Francisco Federal Building. From there, protesters marched to City Hall.
Friday’s strike was organized by Youth Vs. Apocalypse (YVA), a Bay Area-based organization dedicated to climate justice and ending environmental racism. They have organized numerous climate actions in the past and hope that this one will be a source of inspiration for the movement after the pandemic, according to Hannah Estrada, an 18-year-old YVA organizer.
“One of the big goals for us is to build momentum after a year of pandemic life,” said Estrada. “We want to reignite that fire in people that makes them feel the need to help with this cause. We really believe that consistent action is important and necessary if we want to see real change.”
One main target of the strike was Line 3, a proposed pipeline that would transport tar sands, a type of petroleum deposit, to Superior, Wisconsin, from Alberta, Canada. Critics argue that the pipeline is incredibly dangerous for the environment, as well as a violation of the Treaty of 1855, which protects land belonging to the Anishinaabe people.
Another focus of the strike was how CalSTRS, a pension fund for California public schools, invests billions of dollars into the fossil fuel industry.
YVA was also fighting for the cleaning of the Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard, which was also the location of the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory. According to protesters, the laboratory filled the area with toxic waste, affecting the mostly low-income people of color who live nearby.
The demonstration began with organizers from YVA speaking and leading chants over a PA system as many protesters painted the windows, walls, and sidewalks in front of the federal building, drawing images of the earth, as well as slogans and calls to action.
Protesters held three large banners aloft, reading “Biden: Stop Line 3 Protect Climate, Water, Health and Treaties.” Many participants in the strike also brought their own signs with similar messages.
The march progressed through the streets of San Francisco, as protesters walked to the sound of chanting and drums. The protesters were met with mostly positivity, up until they encountered another protest occurring at the same time.
The second group was protesting vaccinations and mask use, which forced the march to stop entirely, until it was safe to move forward once again.
Interaction between the two groups was heated.
“I remember grown men cussing out little kids that were protesting with us, people on both sides instigating and [worsening the situation],” said Estrada. “We usually have no issues with anything — this is the first time we ran into such a large group of people that were automatically going to disagree with anything we did,” Estrada said.
In addition to the climate march, another group was occupying the space in front of the San Francisco Federal Building at the same time. A group trying to get government funding for the “Better Care Better Jobs Act” held a demonstration feet away from where the climate strike was congregating. Unlike what would happen later in the march with the anti-vaccination protest, the two groups barely interacted at all, despite the close proximity.
Along with YVA, other humanitarian organizations participated in the climate protest as well.
Nancy Keiler, a San Francisco native and member of CODEPINK, an organization dedicated to upholding human and climate rights, also attended the strike.
“I have been an activist for longer than you have been alive,” said Keiler. “We need to get rid of fossil fuels if we want to have a future,” she added.
Paola Gunier, a BHS junior, attended the march because she felt that her voice should be heard. “It’s super important to come out and show that this is something we care about; this is our future, especially as teenagers,” said Gunier.
Others, such as Andaluz Yu, wanted to learn more about the cause and experience demonstrated activism for the first time. “I’m here because I’ve never really attended any of these [protests] before and I want to find out what this kind of activism really feels like,” said Yu, a senior at BHS. “I want to be a part of the topic and inform myself more on the topic at hand,” Yu added.
YVA hopes that this climate strike will reignite peoples’ passion for activism, as well as motivate them to protect the environment. The organization has plans to continue with consistent action and demonstrations regarding climate justice in the future.