On Friday, September 20, more than 750 Berkeley High School (BHS) students chose to walk out of their classes in order to march for action on the current climate crisis. The group of striking students met at 8:30 AM in Civic Center Park, and then traveled by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to Civic Center Station, where they were joined by other Bay Area high schoolers and adults. Together, they marched from the Federal Building at Seventh and Mission streets toward Market Street, chanting and beating drums. Many waved signs that said, “Our house is on fire,” and, “Protect what you love.”
The march followed a planned route through Downtown San Francisco, with stops at various “targets” that included: the offices of Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, United States Senator Dianne Feinstein, Bank of America, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), as well as Amazon’s California Headquarters. The march began outside Nancy Pelosi’s office, where protesters chanted “we demand the truth” in an attempt to get Representative Pelosi to respond to criticisms of her leadership around climate change.
The demonstration was primarily organized by a Bay Area group called Youth vs. Apocalypse (YVA). Sam Saxe-Taller, the lead organizer of BHS Climate Activists, which is aligned with YVA, shared his organization’s demands. “We wanted Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein, two powerful Democratic politicians, to support the Green New Deal. Bank of America is helping to fund fossil fuel companies, pipelines, and environmentally destructive business projects, and PG&E has caused massive wildfires by neglecting their responsibilities, and is now refusing to pay for the damage they’ve caused,” Saxe-Taller said, adding that “it’s essential that young people lead the fight, because we’ll be the ones who will have to deal with the long-term consequences of climate change. We also don’t act and feel as hopeless as adults, and there is a tremendous amount of hope needed to fight hard for solutions that address the intersectionality of the climate crisis.” Saxe-Taller further believes that “it’s crucial that we follow the leadership of groups that will be most affected by climate change: people of color, people in poverty, indigenous people. These groups, as well as those in higher-risk areas like flood-zones, are on the front lines of the climate crisis and
“It’s essential that young people lead the fight, because we’ll be the ones who will have to deal with
the long-term consequences.”
Sam Saxe-Taller, lead organizer of BHS Climate Activists
need to be listened to.” Saxe-Taller added, “it’s important to acknowledge that we are marching on the territory of the Ohlone people, who are the indigenous group of the Bay Area.”
Millions of other young activist also marched in similar protests around the world, including in London, Berlin, and New York City. At the San Francisco demonstration, Aidan Harper, a BHS junior, said: “I’m here today because this is such an important issue that isn’t being addressed … I hope this march is able to wake some people up and say to them: ‘This is a true global crisis and we need to act now to stop it.’ Older generations have a harder time thinking about the future.”
In the days leading up to the march, Principal Schweng informed the school that while the district would not be excusing student absences for the climate strike, absences would instead be marked as “unexcused other,” meaning that there would be less significant consequences for students not attending school.
While the strike gained a lot of media attention, only time will tell how effective it was in the global fight for more comprehensive climate policy.