Roughly 150 students from New Orleans gathered in front of City Hall Friday to participate in a nationwide demonstration to raise awareness for climate change.
“We should be in the classroom learning and preparing for our semester exams right now, but we skipped school to teach our representatives about the importance and urgency of our climate crisis,” says Layla Harmon, a 16-year-old junior at Benjamin Franklin High School.
The event was organized by a local chapter of the Sunrise Movement in coordination with global climate strikes involving young people.
Using Snapchat and Instagram, Harmon helped to spread the word about the event to her classmates, dozens of which left school and traveled by public transit to attend the rally.
Young protesters held up signs that read “This is an Emergency, Act Like It” and “Striking for My Future.” They sang “We’re Gonna Rise Up,” a Chance the Rapper song rewritten into a climate justice anthem.
Some students registered to vote for the first time at the rally.
Ezra Oliff-Lieberman, a 23-year-old Sunrise organizer, voiced the group’s demands to local leaders:
To support the Green New Deal
To fully fund relocation for the residents of Gordon Plaza — a neighborhood built on top of a landfill that was declared a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1994
To block Entergy’s proposed gas plant in New Orleans East
To commit to renewable energy
Reverend Gregory Manning, the 46-year-old pastor at the Broadmoor Community Church, talked about the local impacts of climate change and environmental pollution, including coastal erosion, extreme weather events, and high rates of cancer in Louisiana, especially in areas populated by poor people of color.
“You are the watchmen and women of the future,” said Manning as he addressed the crowd. “You can and must turn this thing around.”
Other speakers included members of the Green Taggers, a group of fifth and sixth graders from the Waldorf School of New Orleans.
“My generation has grown up knowing that our time is running out,” Amelie Lavey, 13, said to the crowd. “We need change now.”
The Sunrise protestors invited local officials to attend the rally. When none showed, the strikers marched into City Hall, where they chanted “climate change is real, we need the Green New Deal,” in front of Mayor Cantrell’s and City Council members’ offices.
Layla Harmon said she hopes elected officials heard their message loud and clear.”
“Fight for our future, or we will vote you out of office,” said Harmon.