ANN ARBOR – Hundreds of students walked of out school at 11:11 a.m. Friday to take part in the Youth Climate Strike on the University of Michigan's Diag.
Youth around the world protested in more than 100 countries, sparked by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
Thunberg organized the first school strike outside Sweden's parliament building in August 2018. Since then, her Fridays for Future movement under the hashtag #FridaysForFuture has snowballed to cities around the world.
According to The Guardian, 1,659 worldwide climate strikes were planned Friday.
On Wednesday, it was announced that Thunberg was nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.
Here in Ann Arbor, a series of speakers addressed the crowd of all ages in the rain. Elected officials such as state Rep. Yousef Rabhi, former Vice Chair of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners and founder and Chair of the Washtenaw County Environmental Council, Michelle Deatrick and Abdul El Sayed, a candidate in Michigan's 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary race, spoke at the event.
Community activists and youths called for action by the government, Ann Arbor City Council and the University of Michigan.
Organizers estimate 2,500 to 3,000 protesters were in attendance.
The global strike calls for the United States to re-enter the Paris Climate Agreement and commit to keeping the rise in global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
On a local level, the Washtenaw County Youth Climate Strike calls on elected state officials to meet the following demands:
- End all extraction and burning of fossil fuels.
- Commit resources to enact rapid and just energy transitions.
- Create ambitious climate goals and accountable decision-making processes.
- Pass immediate proposed policy change.
- Ensure a healthy living environment, and acknowledge water as life.
Once the rally came to an end, organizers led a march through downtown Ann Arbor, bringing traffic to a standstill. Police escorted the crowd and created blockades on major thoroughfares. The group marched to the Fleming Administrative Building to stage a sit in at President Mark Schlissel's office and read a list of demands.
Washtenaw International High School students Zaynab Elkolaly and Khadija Khokhar, who organized the strike, said they were empowered by the turnout.
"We made a part of history and I’m so happy that we could bring this strike to Ann Arbor," said Kokhar, a senior. "I am so empowered right now that so many youth showed up and everyone here cares about the same things I care about and we are fighting for our future and we are showing politicians and corporations that enough is enough and it’s time for us to take back our future."
"I want youth to know that they have power," said Elkolaly, 17. "It is not the politicians, it it not the wealthy, it is us the people, the young people. We will win."
The group mobilized participants via social media.
"What would we do without it, honestly?," said Elkolaly. "We did it by word of mouth, we put up flyers, but really the social network is what got the word out."
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