Youth climate activists travel to downtown Chicago to protest fossil fuel legislation


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

Evanston Township High School students joined others to participate in a global climate strike in Chicago on Friday. The protesters advocated for investment in sustainable solutions.

Evanston Township High School students joined about 250 people to protest for divestment from fossil fuels at this year’s Fridays For Future global climate strike at Pritzker Park.  

Activist Greta Thunberg’s youth-led climate organization, Fridays For Future, sponsored the global strike that took place across the globe. Friday’s strike in Chicago was centered around the theme “#PeopleNotProfit.”

Demonstrators marched downtown to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago to protest the role of banks in the climate crisis. They called for divestment from fossil fuels, regulation of fossil fuel financing and investment in sustainable climate change solutions. The protesters stopped at the Federal Plaza and adjacent Chase Bank before returning to Pritzker Park.

Danica Sun, co-head of the Fridays for Future Chicago chapter and Climate Chicago Youth Coalition, said the protest was also specifically advocating against a bill recently introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). Sun said the current legislation would invest in fossil fuel infrastructure. 

“We were really urging people to call their representatives and tell them to vote that (bill) out,” Sun said.

Erris Maguire, a leader of ETHS-based climate activist group E-Town Sunrise, said there was a large youth presence at Friday’s protest from multiple Chicago-area schools. Maguire’s group works locally with the city government and community to advocate for better climate legislation that creates lasting change, she said.

It is important for youth to organize, she said, because they are the ones that will bear the brunt of future catastrophic climate events.

“Our generation as a whole is really afraid and really concerned for the future,” Magurie said. “I know that everyone in our group really cares a lot about Evanston and wants to see Evanston taking real steps to fight the climate crisis.”

The climate strike began with a staged flash mob to the song “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees. Maguire said the song choice was intentional to emphasize that the climate crisis is about life and death. The protesters then performed a “die-in,” lying on the ground for two minutes. Participants stood in solidarity with people who have died from natural disasters and climate related issues, Maguire said.

After she led chants at Friday’s protest for two hours, Sun said she felt high school students should not have to protest against climate change. But adults in power failed to protect the environment, she added, so participating in strikes and advocacy events is now necessary for the future of the planet.

“(Generations before us) created an environment where my generation doesn’t feel like we have a safe and sustainable future, so we have to step up and do what they aren’t doing,” Sun said.

Carla Winterbottom, a protester with the environmental group Extinction Rebellion, said that the world is experiencing the effects of climate change. 

As she protests alongside groups of students and young people, Winterbottom said she is heartbroken for the next generation. She said that the current state of the climate often leads people to experience anxiety and fear for the future. 

“Action addresses eco-anxiety,” Winterbottom said. “It’s not the environment. It’s our environment. We all need to gather together.”

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Twitter: @KristenAxtman1

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