By Linda Givetash, David Ingram and Farah Otero-Amad, NBC News
Climate strike rally at Federal Courthouse in Opelika, Alabama (photo by Jim Allen)
Crowds of children flooded the streets of major cities in a global show of force Friday to demand action on climate change, with many young people skipping school in protest and sharing a unified message aimed at world leaders.
Rallies were held across Alabama including Tuscaloosa, Huntsville, Birmingham, Mobile and east Alabama at Opelika.
“No matter how many times they try to ignore the issue, you can see every teenager in the area is here,” said Isha Venturi, a 15-year-old high school sophomore from New Jersey who joined tens of thousands in New York’s lower Manhattan taking part in a second “Global Climate Strike.”
“We’re not quiet anymore,” she added, “and change is coming.”
From New York to London and San Francisco to Sydney, Australia, not just children but other groups took part in the strikes, including trade unions, environmental organizations and employees at large tech companies such as Amazon and Google. And their demands were similar: reducing the use of fossil fuels to try to halt climate change.
“As leaders, we’ve failed them,” Halima Adan, 36, of Somalia, said amid the large number of young people in New York, where the city’s 1.1 million public school students were told they could skip classes to attend protests.
Adan, who was in the city for the Peoples’ Summit on Climate, organized by the United Nations Human Rights Office and others, said her own war-torn African nation has felt the effects of “every aspect of [the] climate crisis.”
In a day of coordinated global action, when millions were expected to protest:
• Australia saw some of the first protests kick off Friday morning with organizers estimating that upwards of 300,000 students and workers filled the streets of Melbourne, Sydney and other cities in the biggest protests the country has seen in years.
• New Delhi, India, one of the world’s most polluted cities, saw dozens of students and environmental activists chant “we want climate action” while hundreds marched in Thailand’s capital Bangkok, before staging a “die-in” outside the Ministry of Natural Resources
• In London, thousands of people from infants to grandparents blocked traffic outside the Houses of Parliament chanting “save our planet.”
• Crowds gathered in European capitals, including Berlin and Warsaw, Poland, and African capitals such as Nairobi, Kenya, while organizers said there are some 800 events planned across the U.S.
“The climate crisis is an emergency — we want everyone to start acting like it. We demand climate justice for everyone,” organizers said on one website dedicated to Friday’s protests, adding that there was action planned in more than 150 countries.
A coalition of environmental groups, youth organizations and others using the hashtag #strikewithus have demanded passage of a “Green New Deal.”
The climate strike movement began as a weekly demonstration led by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg in August 2018.
The latest worldwide demonstrations are timed to nearly coincide with Monday’s U.N. Climate Summit in New York, where U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said he wants to see governments and businesses pledge to abandon fossil fuels. “We are losing the fight against climate change,” he said at a news conference on Wednesday, according to Reuters.
Anna Taylor, 18, who co-founded the climate strikes movement in the U.K., addressed a crowd in London on Friday that young people are now “desperate.”
Writer Lavinia Richards, 41, said she decided to take the day off work to join the London march when her 6-year-old son, Ruben, asked to join.
“I was pleased that he wants to do the right thing and he’s standing up for what he believes in,” she said. “If these children are brought up to be ethical and responsible, then maybe there is a chance.”
Ruben told NBC News that he wanted to strike in hopes of seeing Thunberg, his role model, and “to save the rainforest and all the tarantulas and the gorillas.”
“Some people think there is going to be a sixth mass extinction, so we don’t really want that to happen,” said Rosa Cormcain, 9, with her group of friends carrying signs that read “there is no planet b” and “don’t be a fossil fool.”
Protesters blocked roads around London’s Parliament, waving flags, beating drums, chanting and singing in the sunshine for hours. At 1 p.m. local time, strikers honked horns, rang bells, blew whistles and cheered in an effort to sound the alarm for action on climate change.
“If we don’t take action now … it won’t be a certain amount of people who will suffer, it will be everyone on this planet,” said activist Al Shadjareh, 16.
Shadjareh and his peers point to warnings from scientists, including an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report from last year, that forecast severe consequences for the environment and human life if global temperatures rise more than 2.7 degrees.
More than 2,300 companies around the globe from a variety of industries, including law, tourism and technology, have joined the Not Business As Usual alliance and pledged to support their workers to strike with students on Friday.
Global brands including Ben & Jerry’s and Lush announced they would be closing their stores on the day of the protest.
Thousands of tech workers say they are planning to join the protests in the middle of their workdays, showing a renewed level of political activism in Silicon Valley where software engineers and other employees traditionally haven’t spoken up in public against their bosses.
Amazon Employees for Climate Justice said it expected more than 1,600 employees would walk off their job sites to protest what they called the company’s lack of action in addressing the climate crisis. It will be the first strike at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters in the company’s 25-year history, according to Wired magazine.