Climate-strike marchers stage Chicago die-in
Illinois Youth Climate Strike is joined by veteran environmentalists in calling for a climate emergency
By Ted Cox
CHICAGO — Hundreds of Illinois Youth Climate Strike marchers joined hundreds of other environmentalists in a protest in downtown Chicago Monday demanding that government at all levels declare a climate emergency and act on global warming.
“This movement wouldn’t exist if the adults in power did their jobs to protect people they were elected to represent,” said Serena Worley, a sophomore at Deerfield High School and a member of the Illinois Branch of U.S. Youth Climate Strikes. “We are begging you, the people in power, the people who have the power, to act.”
Protesters held a news conference in Daley Plaza late Monday afternoon, while Illinois Youth Climate Strike protesters massed outside the Trump International Hotel and Tower across the Chicago River. Hundreds of teens stepped off on an early evening march back to Daley Plaza, where they held a die-in outside the building that houses both Chicago City Hall and the Cook County government.
Worley pointed to the heavy rains and flooding that afflicted farmers statewide this year as evidence the planet is warming from greenhouse gases and experiencing climate change.
“That is why we are fighting,” said Avery Martin, a Deerfield High junior. “To change the track the world is on, the direction we are heading toward, to declare a climate emergency.”
Protesters called on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to declare a climate emergency, and for Gov. J.B. Pritzker on the state level to work to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act, the legislative focus of an earlier march last month that drew thousands of teenage students to Chicago’s Loop on a Friday school strike — inspired by global activist Greta Thunberg.
“We don’t want to be fighting against adult politicians and the government,” Martin said. “We want to be working with them.”
Instead, they found themselves working with other environmental groups to draw attention to the issue though Monday’s protests. Kyra Woods of the Sierra Club’s Illinois Chapter welcomed the teen climate strikers in joining “the warriors who have led this fight for years and decades before us, standing together to say this is what we fight for.”
“It is worth declaring a climate emergency because we will no longer stand for being political pawns. We are demanding action from our politicians.”
Kyra Woods of the Sierra Club’s Illinois Chapter (One Illinois/Ted Cox)
Woods said, “The crisis we are in the midst of is not just about the planet. This is about the planet and people.
“It is worth declaring a climate emergency because we will no longer stand for being political pawns,” she added. “We are demanding action from our politicians.”
Woods called on government to “enact binding policies that will put our state on the path to a brighter future and protect the communities of our city and of our state and of our world.”
Woods made a specific appeal for Pritzker to lead the way in passing the Clean Energy Jobs Act later this month during the General Assembly’s fall veto session.
“We are not going to solar-power our way out of this,” she said. “We are not going to recycle our way out of this. We need you to have strong action, locally, at the state level, and federally.”
Lightfoot praised the protesters and their mission. “With the world facing a crisis in regards to climate change, it is inspiring to see people, especially youth, advocating for environmental issues today that will affect our collective future tomorrow,” said Press Secretary Anel Ruiz. “Mayor Lightfoot is committed to making sure that Chicago is a leader in this effort, which is why the administration continues to prioritize investments in renewable energy, improved air and water quality, and reductions in the city's carbon footprint. Mayor Lightfoot commends those who continue to show great leadership by taking on issues of environmental justice into their own hands because they care about the future of our planet.”
The protest was not as well-attended as last month’s march, when thousands of students showed up. One high-schooler joked that that was because this protest took place after school and didn’t call for students to skip classes. Nonetheless, hundreds marched through Chicago to stage a die-in outside the Cook County Building and Chicago City Hall to demand action on climate change on the part of local government. Meanwhile, other environmental activists, led by the group Extinction Rebellion, blocked the intersection of Clark and Randolph streets nearby.