“Stand up, fight back”: Students rally at climate strike

Curran Neenan | News Editor

Dozens of students marched in the St. Louis Climate strike to campaign for climate justice Sept. 20.

The event opened with speeches from climate leaders and St. Louis high schoolers, among others, in front of City Hall. The participants then marched through downtown St. Louis, past the headquarters for coal giant Peabody Energy, before returning to City Hall.

According to Sunrise STL Hub Coordinator senior Grace Tedder, City Hall was the staging area for a final rally to energize the demonstrators.

“Everyone came back together and had a final call to action trying to get folks engaged in mass movements to build collective power around pushing our government on climate action,” Tedder said.

Sunrise STL, a national, youth-led climate advocacy group, was one of several organizations that organized the strike.

Senior Khalid Mahmood, a lead organizer for Fossil Free WashU, said he was pleased with the turnout of Washington University students, which he estimated could be “easily 100.”

“I thought it was extremely successful; we got a good turnout drawing on people both from Wash. U. and high schools and from the surrounding St. Louis community,” Mahmood said.

Mahmood encouraged University students to use public transportation to get to the protest and helped organize groups in getting downtown.

“We figured that was the easiest way [to get people downtown],” Mahmood said.

Mahmood believes the climate strike was an easy entry point into climate justice for students new to activism.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for people to get involved in climate action,” Mahmood said. “I think the desire is definitely there; the climate crisis is becoming more evident each passing day. I think there’s been a strong increase in urgency.”

Tedder was happy with the level of engagement from the University community and she even spotted several University officials at the climate strike, including Bret Gustafson, an associate professor of sociocultural anthropology, and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Sustainability Phil Valko. The Washington University Outing Club even brought its own contingent of protestors.

“We had a bigger turnout than we could have hoped for, and it seems like everybody there was pretty enthusiastic,” Tedder said. “A lot of people were interested in getting involved with climate justice organizing and it was definitely the biggest climate strike or rally that’s happened in St Louis, so it shows just how much people are starting to care about this issue. So that’s pretty exciting.”

Mahmood says he appreciated seeing students expand their interests beyond the bounds of the University’s campus.

“It’s cool to see people getting involved in climate activism both on campus and off campus,” Mahmood said. “The stereotype of the Wash. U. bubble is that people only focus on things that affect campus so it was good to see a huge turnout of people going downtown and showing up for this.”

Not everyone was impressed with the student body’s participation. Sophomore Maya Horn was disappointed in attendance.

“I think the turnout as far as the Wash. U. student body goes should be a lot higher,” Horn wrote. “I think there’s a responsibility that comes with being a resident of St. Louis and part of it is showing up and supporting community based activism.”

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