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“This Is Our Time. This Is Our Future.” Voices from the Historic Youth Climate Strike in NYC

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As many as 4 million people around the world took to the streets Friday in the largest day of action focused on the climate crisis. Students across the globe led climate strikes in hundreds of countries, inspired by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. The demonstration kicked off in Foley Square, where tens of thousands of people gathered before the march. Varshini Prakash, co-founder and executive director of the Sunrise Movement, and climate activist Vic Barrett were among the handful of activists who addressed the climate strikers in Foley Square.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: As many as 4 million people took to the streets around the world Friday in the largest day of action focused on the climate crisis. Students across the globe participated in a climate strike inspired by the 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. Just over a year ago, Greta began skipping classes to protest in front of the Swedish parliament, demanding action to prevent catastrophic climate change. Her protest inspired millions around the world. On Friday, she joined the climate strike in New York City ahead of today’s U.N. Climate Action Summit.

Later in the show, we’ll hear Greta in her own words, but first we turn to more voices from Friday’s protests. We begin with Varshini Prakash, co-founder and executive director of the Sunrise Movement, and climate activist Vic Barrett addressing climate strikers in Foley Square as the march began.

VIC BARRETT: Vic Barrett niri bai. Garifuna nuguya. Vic Barrett is my name. I am Garifuna. My people are an Afro-indigenous community from the island of Saint Vincent in the Caribbean. Despite overwhelming adversity, we organized our community and emancipated ourselves from colonization. My ancestors did this to protect the children to come. I am one of those children.

But the struggle continues for me and my people. Again we are being pushed from the lands which we settled, the lands that my family has inhabited for generations. That land will be underwater in a few decades if we continue on the path we are on.

I was born into a world in which my future is being stolen from me, born into a world in which my past already was, born into a world where everything that I am is slipping into the sea, born into a world where my people face extinction.

Indigenous lands all over our planet are being flooded, poisoned and destroyed. My black brothers and sisters are being gunned down by police. Migrant children are dying at the border. Trans folks are being murdered. Violence is in the air that we breathe, the spectacular violence of the police on marginalized people and the slow violence of dispossession and disenfranchisement on those same communities.

Some would think that there’s no more room for destruction. But I think that all of us here know that, for decades, our government and governments around the world have consciously put policies in place that have caused the climate crisis that we find ourselves in, an emerging crisis threatening my generation with untold violence.

But this is an old story, right? A story that we’re tired of hearing, right? That is why we’re here. We’re here to write a new story, a story in which our country is doing everything in its power to address not only the climate crisis, but the systemic injustices at its roots; a story in which our constitutional right to a safe climate is recognized by the highest courts; a story in which the most vulnerable people are given the greatest protections; a story in which indigenous peoples are empowered to protect our homelands.

In 2030, the history books will show that faced with imminent destruction, people on the frontlines fought back; that young people rose up around the world to demand immediate action; that starting on this day, September 20th, 2019, everything began to change. The momentum became unstoppable. Billions of people joined the next Global Climate Strike. The United States Supreme Court enshrined our constitutional right to a stable climate. And politicians around the world found the political will to fight for meaningful reforms to ensure justice for their people.

But let me tell you guys, those history books won’t write themselves. So I want you to repeat after me: This is our time.

CROWD: This is our time.

VIC BARRETT: This is our future.

CROWD: This is our future.

VIC BARRETT: And I will do —

CROWD: And I will do —

VIC BARRETT: — whatever it takes —

CROWD: — whatever it takes —

VIC BARRETT: — to protect our rights, —

CROWD: — to protect our rights, —

VIC BARRETT: — to protect our planet —

CROWD: — to protect our planet — 

VIC BARRETT: — and to protect our people.

CROWD: — and to protect our people.

VIC BARRETT: Thank you.

VARSHINI PRAKASH: My name is Varshini. It is a pleasure to be with you here today. So, I want to say, when I first learned about the climate crisis as a kid, like, I would lie awake at night, my heart pounding, when I thought about what this would mean for my people. I couldn’t get the images out of my head — right? — of what people would do to each other when they didn’t have food, when they didn’t have water and when they sought sanctuary and were faced with cages and guns instead. And I felt alone and small and powerless. And I know that that is the story that so many young people are feeling right now.

We have grown up seeing the political establishment fail us. And for twice as long as I have been alive on this planet, we have known about the crisis. For just as long, the wealthy and the powerful have profited off of pollution, have lied to millions of people about the science, have choked our democracy with their Big Oil dollars and stolen our futures.

Today, this generation is taking over! Our days of waiting for justice, our days of waiting for action, our days of waiting to be heard are over! Am I right? Today, we are putting our feet in the streets, and we are not stopping until we get it done! Today, kids don’t have to feel small and alone and powerless, because we have a movement that is globally shaking the roots of our society, that is getting millions of people involved in action. And striking is how we can stop the worst of the climate crisis and get a Green New Deal. …

And if we want to win, we are going to need tens of millions of Americans to join us in the streets. If we are going to win, we have to bring society and our economy to a standstill and make it happen. If we are going to win, politicians are going to have to know that they will win or lose based off of where they stand on this issue.

And we can do it. We’ve been here before as a people. In 1970, on the first Earth Day, 20 million people were in the streets. During the civil rights movement, young students and young people were arrested and took action and took risks by the tens of thousands. And that’s what it takes to make change in this country.

So I need all of you to be with me here in this fight. So I want you to imagine striking not just for one day, but day after day, marching and demonstrating incessantly, even shutting down our cities and schools and businesses to stop business as usual, unless we get what we want and need as a generation. Are you with me in that fight? So today is a glorious start. And tomorrow the fight continues, and I want to see you there.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Varshini Prakash, co-founder and executive director of the Sunrise Movement, joining a quarter of a million people in New York alone who marched from Foley Square to Battery Park in downtown New York City. Democracy Now! was there in the streets. When we come back, you’ll hear some of the voices of the marchers, as well as a part of Greta Thunberg’s speech. Stay with us.

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Millions Took Part in the Youth-Led Global Climate Strike Friday. Here’s Why People Marched

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