By Alyson Barnes
On the morning of Friday September 20, 2019, thousands of students went on strike from school in order to travel to Boston to protest climate change at City Hall Plaza. Fifteen of those students were from Frontier Regional High School and we participated in the strike by gathering cardboard boxes and buying markers from Big-Y to make last minute signs on the bus ride to the capital city.To our surprise, the number of people who attended the strike was mind blowing. While many of us were expecting hundreds of people, we found ourselves in a crowd of at least 10,000 people. For many of us, this was the first strike we had been to, and not many of us knew what to expect. The organizers who planned for local schools to participate did not elaborate on the details of the planned strike. We had almost no information about the strike until the night before.
These unknowns were quickly resolved once the bus dropped us off at City Hall. At 11:30am speakers ranging from students to government officials, spoke on a small stage in front of the massive crowd. Many of these students used hand made signs to their advantage. For example, one sign read, “Climate Change is Not a Controversy,” “I stand for what I stand for!” while another poster quoted Greta Thunburg herself saying, “I want you to act as your house was on fire. Because it is.”
Speakers such as Gina MaCarthy, Saya Ameli Hajeb (both 17 years old), Jermey Ornstien (18 years old), opened up about how climate change has affected their personal lives. Some spoke with tears in their eyes, explaining how they had not been able to see their family in almost a decade because of climate change. Her story brought many to tears that eventually transformed into righteous anger when a group began reciting a South African chant conveying messages about not giving up and staying strong.
During the climate speeches, some civilians and local newspapers noticed the banner that wrote, “Global Climate Action Now!” four of our Frontier students had been asked to hold on behalf of the city of Greenfield, and asked to take a picture of it. Many were shocked to find out we had taken a bus from a small town in Western Massachusetts, completing a four-hour round trip.
Soon after, the strikers began their march to the state house, in hopes of receiving Charlie Baker’s attention about climate change and what bills to pass to control it. Throughout the march, chants echoed, “show me what democracy looks like!” which instigated a reply of, “this is what democracy looks like!” and, “hey hey, ho ho, climate change has got to go!” The crowd was fired up!
Most observing citizens supported the strike and even joined in on the chanting, however, our Frontier students came into contact with some who did not support the strike. One man plowed through the march yelling, “Some people actually have places to be,” as he tried to move across the street. The crowd responded to him by yelling things such as, “If this planet dies you won’t have anywhere to be!” Students were outraged at this man along with others from the Baby Boomer generation. Thurnberg helped to aid this anger as her words echoed in the back of our minds. Those words were, “I honestly don’t understand why adults would choose to spend their time mocking and threatening teenagers and children for promoting science, when they could do something good instead. I guess they must simply feel so threatened by us.”
Soon after, all fifteen of Frontier’s students loaded back onto the bus and drove back to South Deerfield, feeling empowered and accomplished by the way in which we had contributed.