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ONLINE: People's Climate March draws hundreds of Rochester activists

by Emmy Frank - Staff Writer
Mon, May 1st 2017 07:00 pm

On Saturday, April 29, hundreds of people took part in the Rochester, NY People's Climate March. The march comes a week after other climate marches in D.C. and across the nation.

As explained on their Facebook event page, the march was "part of a larger strategy to push back on an agenda of climate denial and fossil fuel expansion, and double-down at the local level fighting fossil fuels and lifting up real climate solutions."

Once Environmentally Conscious Organization for Society (ECOS) found out about the People's Climate March, they spread the word about it, providing free transportation to and from the march. Anyone who chose the environmentally friendly method of taking the bus with the club rather than driving their own cars got a free t-shirt, saying "We Can Make a World of Difference."

The movement kicked off at 10:30 a.m. at Rochester City Hall, with the actual march beginning at 11 a.m. Hundreds of people marched through the streets to Washington Square Park in a blocked-off, 0.7 mile route. It was well-organized and peaceful, with police officers on duty predominantly to monitor traffic.

In solidarity, people across all generations—the elderly, the youth and even little kids—marched through downtown Rochester. Many of the people who marched held up homemade signs. Some popular slogans for the signs were "Climate Change is Real," "There is no Planet B" and "I'm marching for my grandchildren." Many signs also mentioned President Trump in some way; while most sarcastically criticized the president, others took a more factual approach by addressing his current environmental policies.

Once the march ended, about half of the people who marched stayed in Washington Square Park to listen to a panel of speakers. Before the speeches began, the Rochester Raging Grannies sang a few songs. True to the name, a group of old women—feisty, well-dressed grandmothers wearing big hats adorned with political buttons—approached the stage. According to their website, raginggrannies.org, they describe themselves as "women of a certain age, singing out for social justice, a clean environment, and peace." Although from a musical perspective they were quite off-key and didn't harmonize well, the Raging Grannies were a crowd hit. Almost everyone in the park was singing along. One popular song had the lyrics, "Bring back, bring back, oh bring back my planet to me, to me!"

After the Raging Grannies' performance and some introductory remarks from the March's host, Mayor Lovely Warren approached the stage. She was energetic and enthusiastic. She succeeded in pumping up the crowd, whose energy had died down just a bit because of the slightly longer wait—she was late for her speech. She excitedly greeted Rochester and in a short but charged speech ensured the crowd that "Climate change is real," and that Rochester was doing something to fight it.

Warren explained that in addition to the measures the City of Rochester has already taken—like installing solar panels on major buildings—the City is currently creating a Community Climate Action Plan, a plan that will help Rochester continue to address climate change. More details of this plan can be found on the City of Rochester's website, www.cityofrochester.gov/climateactionplan.

After Mayor Warren's speech, many other people took to the stage. Even Brockport's very own professor from the Environmental Science department, Dr. James Haynes spoke.

Students from ECOS, including ECOS President Chris Plummer, stood on the stage with him, holding up a large graph showing climate change data. No other speaker supplied such a large visual. His academic background and solid facts seemed to get the attention of the crowd.

Although all of the speeches came from people of different backgrounds and perspectives, the overall message from each speaker was the same: climate change is real, and we need to do something about it. The speakers encouraged the people of Rochester to make changes in their daily lives to fight climate change and to become more politically involved. They encouraged everyone to bike more, install solar panels, invest in green energy and buy local food from local farmers. They encouraged people to start and continue the conversation about climate change with friends, family members, and people of the community. And they especially encouraged people to get involved politically, stressing the importance of calling up their representatives and asking them what they were doing to fight climate change.

Eli Steinberg, a senior Environmental Science major and a member of ECOS thought the march was an important way to show the Trump administration

"I'd say it's an important way to show the current administration we're still here," Steinberg explained. "But people need to take action independent of just marching, such as diverting from fossil fuels and staying politically active."

His thoughts reflected the opinions of all the speakers. Although each speaker thanked the crowd for being there, all of them stressed that marching just wasn't enough for big change.

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