Northampton, Amherst climate strikers fighting for a future

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  • University of Massachusetts senior Tyler Poisson, left, listens to speakers at a Walk Out for Climate rally near the campus pond on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Emma Harnisch of Western Mass Science for the People addresses a Walk Out for Climate rally at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Several Extinction Rebellion flags, which feature a circled hourglass, fly over a Walk Out for Climate action at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Valley-based musicians Kate O'Connor and Rico Spence perform for about 500 people attending the Walk Out for Climate rally at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Over 500 people took part in the first hour of a Walk Out for Climate action and rally near the the campus pond and the Fine Arts Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Over 500 people took part in the first hour of a Walk Out for Climate action, sponsored in part by Extinction Rebellion of Western Massachusetts, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • More than 500 people took part in the first hour of a Walk Out for Climate action at UMass. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Students work on a community art project during the Walk Out for Climate action at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The Climate Emergency March for a Just Future heads down Main Street in Northampton on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hundreds rally in front of City Hall after the Climate Emergency March for a Just Future in Northampton, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A group of drummers were part of the Climate Emergency March for a Just Future as it heads down Main Street toward City Hall in Northampton, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The Climate Emergency March for a Just Future arrives at City Hall in Northampton, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The Climate Emergency March for a Just Future leaves Sheldon Field in Northampton, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Laura Kaye, front, of Northfield, offers signs and sign-making materials as she and others get ready for the Climate Emergency March for a Just Future, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019 at Sheldon Field in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • State Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa speaks during a rally in front of City Hall after the Climate Emergency March for a Just Future in Northampton, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hundreds rally in front of City Hall after the Climate Emergency March for a Just Future in Northampton, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ellen Clegg, left, and her daughter, Lucia Russek-Clegg, drum during speeches at a rally in front of City Hall after the Climate Emergency March for a Just Future in Northampton, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Marty Nathan talks with Rabbi David Seidenberg during a rally in front of City Hall after the Climate Emergency March for a Just Future in Northampton, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. Nathan was one of the organizers; Seidenberg offered a prayer. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hundreds rally in front of City Hall after the Climate Emergency March for a Just Future in Northampton, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/20/2019 10:56:35 PM

NORTHAMPTON — For Holyoke Community College student Dagenais Romero, the reason for attending Northampton’s Climate Emergency March for a Just Future on Friday was simple.

“I want a future,” Romero told the Gazette, “and this is the only way to get it — protesting.”

Romero, who held a sign that read “I stand for what I stand on!,” was among a crowd of hundreds that gathered in front of Northampton City Hall after a mile-long march organized by 60 climate and justice organizations to demand that politicians act on climate change.

“Our leaders must declare a climate emergency and act like that is the truth,” said Marty Nathan of Climate Action Now, one of the groups that organized the rally.

With the demonstration, Northampton joined cities around the world in holding a climate strike protest three days before the United Nations climate summit. The largely youth-led protests collectively saw millions of participants, multiple news outlets reported, and were inspired by teenage activist Greta Thunberg of Sweden. Thunberg sparked the “school strike for climate” movement when she began skipping school on Fridays to protest the Swedish government’s inaction on climate change in front of the parliament building in Stockholm.

At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, students and faculty streamed from their classrooms at noon Friday, congregating with hundreds more concerned, but hopeful, locals near the school’s pond to rally support for bringing a halt to climate change through speeches, songs and chants.

The crowd stood in solidarity with thousands of other walkouts throughout the country.

“Historically, meaningful social change has come out of mass organization and the only way to get there is to start showing up,” UMass graduate student Raven Hetzler said. “Those human connections are the building blocks of any real change.”

In Northampton, the crowd of protesters gathered at Sheldon Field and approached City Hall chanting, “The people united will never be defeated.” These shouts turned into a call and response of “Whose planet?” “Our planet!” as participants filled the street in front of City Hall, where they were met with music and speakers, including local politicians; middle, high school and college students; and other community members. 

While hundreds were attending the rally in Northampton, about 500 western Massachusetts residents — most of them young people — were expected to attend the Boston Climate Strike, according to an estimate by Sunrise Movement Northampton.

“Today in Greenfield, and Amherst and in Boston, people like you are storming …  places of government that have not done enough,” state Sen. Jo Comerford told the protesters. “And you’re making it clear that the only thing more powerful than money and politics, than partisan gridlock in Washington, and than Beacon Hill squabbling is you,” she said.

“You are what’s going to make the Green New Deal revolution a reality here in Northampton, in the State House and in Washington, D.C.”

Other speakers included state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, Andrea Schmid of the Pioneer Valley Workers Center and students from Divest Smith College,  among others.

While climate change is a source of anxiety for Romero, she is optimistic that the collective action on display Friday will force progress. 

“At this point, with all the turnout all over the world, I believe there will be a change,” Romero said. “We’re stepping in the right direction.”

In Amherst, local chapters of two environmental activist groups, Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion, co-sponsored the event. Student groups and members of other climate activist groups attended as well, including the UMass Democrats, the UMass Outing Club, Students for Justice in Palestine, and Our Revolution: UMass.

More than a dozen groups spoke, calling for reduction of carbon emissions on campus and beyond as well as for cutting consumption of non-renewable resources. 

“Today we want to get the word out,” said Glen Ayers of the western Massachusetts chapter of Extinction Rebellion. “This is about taking that message to the people.”

The crowd at UMass included seniors, families and scores of schoolchildren from local elementary and middle schools. Attendees sported numerous flags and banners. Some read “Now or never,” “Protect what you love,” and “The climate is changing, why aren’t you?”

“We’re delighted to have the whole community come out,” Extinction Rebellion spokeswoman EmmalieDropkin said.

A vandalism incident Friday morning on campus, however, provided a reminder that not everyone is on board with climate activism. On a wall dedicated to graffiti where one group advertised the walkout, someone had covered up the ad, instead announcing “climate change is a lie.” There were no counter-protesters at today’s event.

After the event, a smaller group of activists marched to UMass Chancellor KumbleSubbaswamy’s office to demand immediate action.

The organizers of Friday’s demonstration planned a “rebellion” next Friday in which they will present their list of demands to UMass and the Five Colleges, according to Extinction Rebellion member Nathalie Tilley. “Our goal is to create some transparency between the colleges and the communities,” she said.

 

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com. 


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