Students rally in Boston in support of climate justice


It took two buses and three fleet vans to get 100 Mount Holyoke students to downtown Boston as part of the Global Climate Strike on Friday, Sept. 20. 

“Like every social movement, there is power in numbers,” Gabbi Perry ’22, one of the coordinators, said. “By going to Boston, we were taking part in a movement that is fighting for recognition and for its voice to be heard ... I think of it as helping to gather the public recognition that the movement for climate justice deserves.”

The climate strikes, inspired by the activism of Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, drew 4 million participants worldwide according to The New York Times. In Boston, 7,000 people gathered in City Plaza and marched to the Massachusetts State House, organizers said.

Boston strikers had three demands for the Massachusetts legislature. They called for the prioritization of workers and marginalized communities most affected by poverty and pollution, the immediate end of all fossil fuel infrastructure projects and for Governor Charlie Baker to declare a climate emergency. 

Perry thought that the sheer mass of people who participated in the Sept. 20 movement speaks volumes. 

“That says a lot about what we have to learn from the strike and this movement,” she said. “There is no more getting away with passive action.”

And as with any strike, there were countless protest signs, many of which were equal parts witty and blunt. One juxtaposed Regina George with President Trump reading, “Stop trying to make coal happen.” In another, the Earth donned a Trump toupee alongside the text, “You can’t comb over climate change.”

Speakers amped up the crowd with words of motivation and anecdotes from their own experiences; from Gina McCarthy, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator under the Obama administration, to Michelle Wu, Boston’s first Asian-American city councilor, to Saya Ameli Hajebi, a 17-year-old leader in the Boston hub of the national Sunrise Movement. 

“We have a right to clean air, a right to clean water, a right to a livable future,” Hajebi said with a forceful voice followed by a wave of applause and cheers. “We all have someone, a family, a community, a future to lose.” 

“Climate justice means that we need to overturn systems, laws and attitudes that have created climate change and inequalities,” Matowee Monroe, co-leader of the United American Indians of New England, said, emphasizing the role of indigenous communities in conservation. “Indigenous people are doing everything possible to protect the Earth and the futures of our children and all children.”

Maya Sterett ’20 thought the speeches were inspiring and boosted the movement’s morale. She also appreciated the focus on intersectional climate justice, especially in terms of indigenous rights. 

“I hope the march is able to show how much the general public is in disagreement with the government,” Sterett said. “What the government has been doing, by allowing polluters to get away [with] killing the planet does not reflect the will of the people.” 

The Boston-bound trip was an inaugural activity for a new on-campus organization: Mount Holyoke Sunrise. The Sunrise Movement, known for its young leaders and persistent demands for environmental policy, will have a new hub at Mount Holyoke officially starting in October. 

Destiny Treloar ’21, another Mount Holyoke Sunrise leader said that the hub will not only support the national movement but also push for the adoption of a Green New Deal at Mount Holyoke College and in South Hadley.