The first teenager I encountered on Friday sat next to me on the bus. She was wearing a rainbow-tie dye t-shirt and showed me her sign. It said, “We are causing the sixth mass extinction.” We are causing the sixth mass extinction, I responded. “Right?” she said.
The teens and I were all headed to Cal Anderson Park where a Climate Justice Fest was happening and the march to City Hall would originate at 12:30 p.m. It was all a part of Friday's Global Climate Strike. In Seattle, there was this event—organized and led by the youth—and a tech worker rally at the Amazon Sphere that Stranger writer Rich Smith covered. The two marches started at different points but meshed together in downtown on the way to City Hall. Initial estimates have said that around 10,000 were present.
It was bustling in the park. Lorde’s “Melodrama” was blaring (it quickly switched to a playlist of entirely Macklemore but we don’t have to dwell on that), and there were booths from seemingly every eco-friendly group. There was the Transit Riders Union, Fridays for Future, GOT Green, a booth about the Seattle Green New Deal, Extinction Rebellion, and more. There were teach-ins about sustainability and organizing, there was art being made, there was a giant paper mache head of Jenny Durkan with a hole in the side of it that people could drop letters into—“if you had the Mayor’s ear what you say about climate change?”
There were kids of all ages everywhere. Most of them had signs. They clung together in packs. One of my favorite group of kids was the one who climbed up the Cal Anderson fountain. It was a nice blend of parkour and activism. We need more of that.
A close second was the crowd of kids surrounding a preacher on the hill. They didn’t want the event today to be made religious and were chanting “pizza” to drown out the preacher. Jamil Suleman, an activist who dresses up as Jesus to spotlight the causes he supports, showed up. The kids went nuts.
“There was a phony out there trying to make it all about religion,” Benjamin—who is 12 but turning 13 in two months, he specified—said. “Jesus (Suleman) came in and actually cares about climate change. He was talking about unity and how we all need to stick together to solve this thing.”
Benjamin and his friend Ansar (also 12 but turning 13 in three months, he told me) traveled “a long way” to get to the march. They live in South Seattle and go to Mercer Middle School.
Here are some other people at the Climate Justice Fest:
Karen was at the strike for grief, motherhood, planetary belonging, and civic duty
Karen makes a lot of art for protests and marches, she told me. She goes to Value Village and buys up used shower curtains and then spends all night painting them. She had three pieces of art work at the strike today. Here is one of them:
Dylan, 16, Garfield High School, They/Them, Out Here
"Climate change, you know, it’s bad and the people who are going to go down first are poor people, lower-class people, people of color, and disabled people, and I’m a disabled person of color so I'm out here fighting to live."
After we spoke, a girl came up to Dylan. "Hi, my friend thinks you're cute, can she get your number?" Ah, young love.
"Climate change is the single biggest issue and it kind of trumps all the other ones. There are so many issues right now and you can do all this work and solve poverty and solve racism but none of it matters if everyone dies. In order to solve all the other stuff, you need to solve this because otherwise all the work you do will be canceled out."
And then it was time to march.
I was at the back of the pack pretty much and it was... quiet. Usually, there's a lot of chanting in marches. This one not so much. Until, one man shouted, "Hey! I heard a reporter describe this as a parade. It's not! We can be angry so we achieve change!" Some chanting followed and it felt a bit more like a protest.
A 65-year-old woman was yelling from the sidewalk at the kids. She said, "Don't trust anyone over 18!"
Members of the UW Farm were out and about
"Agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to climate change," Adam Houston said. "It's also one of the things affected most by climate change."
"We're here representing a more sustainable alternative," Aisling Doyle Wade said.
The sun had peeked out just as we joined up with the tech workers and made our way to City Hall. It was overflowing with people. There was singing, there were speeches, and I desperately needed a sandwich. Note to self: bring food when covering protests.