Dozens of protesters skipped class or work Thursday to gather at Boston City Hall and demand an immediate response to climate change.
The protest’s organizer, Strike Boston, has also scheduled a protest against qualified immunity for the day after the Nov. 3 election.
Six social justice organizers spoke to the crowd at City Hall. The demonstrators then marched to Boston Common, chanting “stand up, fight back.”
Speakers demanded Massachusetts commits to a plan for net-zero emissions by 2025, defund the policing system, respect the rights of Indigenous communities and pass a “Green New Deal” that adopts the “Red Deal.”
The Red Deal, developed by the Red Nation, expands on the Green New Deal and demands to reinstate treaty rights and acknowledge Native independence, among other demands.
Speaker and organizer Marissa Matson of the Freedom Fighters Coalition said climate change and social justice issues are connected.
“You can’t talk about climate change and white supremacy without talking about capitalism. These systems have been built to serve a select few,” Matson said. “There is no amount of money that can save you from [climate change]. You might live a bit longer, but it’s not going to be fun.”
Kolya Shields, a Sunrise Boston activist, said to the crowd everyone has a responsibility to fight environmental racism. They are living, he said, in the largest civil rights movement since the 1960s.
“We do not all experience the effects of climate change equally,” Shields said. “But we do have generations of people who haven’t known a world without the fear of climate change, which means we have hundreds of millions of people around the world who can leverage their power for change.”
Also speaking to the audience was Jean-Luc Pierite, president of the North American Indian Center of Boston, who said the circumstances of today are the product of more than 500 years of exploitation of North American land and labor.
“When Christopher Columbus landed in 1492, he sent the Indigenous peoples straight to mines to extract resources from the islands,” Pierite said, “worked them to exhaustion, worked them, starved them.”
People should educate themselves, Pierite said, about the history of colonization and its connection to climate change.
Other speakers said people should remember that lower-income individuals and minorities are disproportionately affected by climate change and that climate change strategies often ignore the needs of vulnerable populations.
Karl Adrianza, a protest attendee and member of Sunrise Northeastern, a student group at Northeastern University that promotes climate justice, said the world has been seeing the impacts of climate change play out.
He said he became more passionate about environmental activism this year, when he began gaining a deeper understanding of the impacts of human activity on the globe.
“It’s already destabilizing the world and we can witness that every day,” Adrianza said. “No matter what your daily life looks like, it’s much realer than you think it is.”
Alexander Langrock, another Sunrise Northeastern member, said climate change will affect everyone regardless of whether one protests for change.
“Understand that it is real. It will impact you,” Langrock said. “It is up to you whether you decide to get involved in it or not.”
Attendee Evan, who requested to omit his surname, of the Socialist Alternative political party, said hearing speakers discuss the climate crisis in the context of history and capitalism was powerful.
“This country was really founded on the capitalist exploitation of Indigenous people and imperialism,” Evan said. “I think that’s something we need to really remember.”
Scott Gilbert, a spokesperson for Refuse Facism who attended the protest, said the climate justice movement wouldn’t succeed until President Donald Trump is voted out of office.
“We need millions of people on the streets, day after day until they’re driven out, just like … the Black Lives Matter movement last summer,” Gilbert said. “There was more change in those three months than in the 30 years I’ve been doing political work.”