Students to strike over climate crisis on Friday, Sept. 20; protest rally begins at 11 a.m. in Grant Park

Hundreds of Chicago public school students will join an international school strike to raise awareness of the climate crisis on Friday, Sept. 20. They'll meet at Grant Park at 11 a.m. at the intersection of Columbus Dr. and Roosevelt Rd., march to Federal Plaza and rally in a peaceful protest. Greta Thunberg, center, and other youth activists protest outside the White House on Sept. 13, 2019, photo published by The Guardian. It reports "Young activists rallied in protest of inadequate government action on the climate crisis, chanting: ‘Protect our future.'" Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty.

A catalyst for the Chicago strike – which will include hundreds of suburban students and many adult groups and individuals – and others across the world, has been 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, whose regular Friday school strikes gained a huge following after she began them in August 2018. (A Sept. 13 NPR report on Greta is linked here.)

Some of the United States student strikes on Sept. 20 are expected to be so big that New York City public schools already stated it will be excusing students who take part. (See its notice on Twitter linked here, and a Sept. 18 New York Times article here.)

Facebook graphic from Loyola University student Violet Gomez' page. She is gathering a small group at Columbia College, 600 S. Michigan, at 10 a.m., prior to joining the larger Grant Park rally at 11.

But in Chicago, students who strike will be marked unexcused. A letter sent to principals, forwarded to Substance on Sept. 19 by the Office of Communications James Malnati, follows:

Dear Principals,

As you may be aware, recent demonstrations of global, youth-led environmental activism regarding climate change has inspired the Chicago Youth Climate Strike—a youth-led walkout planned for Friday, September 20 at 11 a.m. to raise awareness of climate change, protest the use of fossil fuels, and demand investments in renewable energy.

Our Department of Social Science and Civic Engagement and the Office of Safety and Security has created a resource guide for schools to engage students, provide guidance on managing student-led actions, and a draft communication to parents about the Climate Strike.

At CPS, we respect and support our students’ desire to voice their opinions and participate in the wider conversations taking place about important social issues. However, providing a high-quality education and ensuring your child’s safety is our top priority, and we must ensure students do not miss out on valuable instruction time. Students who participate in the walkout and do not return to class will receive an unexcused absence.

As always, thank you for supporting our students and schools. Our district is thriving thanks to your contribution and leadership.

Janice K. Jackson, EdD LaTanya D. McDade

Chief Executive Officer Chief Education Officer

Chicago Public Schools Chicago Public Schools

Whitney M. Young Magnet High School senior Adelina Avalos leads other students in a march for climate change awareness. (Photo provided.)

Whitney M. Young Magnet High School senior Adelina Avalos, an Illinois State leader with the U.S. Youth Climate Strike, said she's been working with students from Jones, Payton, Washington and Lincoln Park high schools in preparation for the strike.

Through posts on Twitter and Instagram, as well as by flyering and "chalk-tivism," the students are spreading the word, Adelina said.

About 2,000 students have expressed interest in the event on Facebook, according to suburban high school student Isabella Johnson, another Illinois State lead of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike. Good Kids Mad City speakers will be at the strike on Sept. 20 in Chicago.

"We have about 50 schools right now in the Chicago area," Isabella said in an interview with the People's Tribune. "I’m excited about the amount of little children who are coming to the strike, too. It’s always cool to see a whole class of kindergartners marching down the street. One school will bring up to 100 sixth graders."

To raise awareness of the climate crisis, students need to "upset the social order ... it gets people’s attention when we’re out on the streets and not at school," Isabella said, in the article (linked here).

“Many people are not even aware that there is a climate crisis or even that climate change is real," Isabella said. "It’s always the most important thing to be educated, which is why we’re having a lot of speakers, including scientists who will be able to tell us the science behind it."

The Field Museaum posted the above on Twitter. A seach using #climatestrike shows some of the organizing for the strike. At Whitney Young, Adelina is leading events in the days up to the strike to raise environmental awareness: Meatless Monday, Transit Tuesday, Wasteless Wednesday, Thrift Shop Thursday.

"I live on the southeast side," Adelina said, where she's learned about environmental justice from community activists who forced KCBX to stop polluting the area with petcoke and manganese. (Link to an article about this fight here.)

A speaker from Good Kids Mad City, a Chicago group that formed during the March for Our Lives protests in March 2018, will be speaking at Friday's event about the effects of environmental racism, Adelina said. Other students, politicians, and performers will appear.

A focus at the Chicago climate strike will be lobbying Governor Pritzker to make the Illinois Clean Energy bill a priority, Adelina aid.

Another Chicago student, Loyola University's Violet Gomez, is organizing a group of college students. On Facebook, she announced that she will meet with a group at Columbia College, 600 S. Michigan, at 10 a.m., before leading them to the larger Grant Park rally at 11.

The U.S. Youth Climate Strikes mission statement:

“We, the youth of America, are striking because the science says we have just a few years to transform our energy system, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and prevent the worst effects of climate change.

"We are striking because our world leaders have yet to acknowledge, prioritize, or properly address our climate crisis. We are striking because marginalized communities across our nation — especially communities of color, disabled communities, and low- income communities— are already disproportionately impacted by climate change.

"We are striking because if the social order is disrupted by our refusal to attend school, then the system is forced to face the climate crisis and enact change. With our futures at stake, we call for radical legislative action to combat climate change and its countless detrimental effects on the American people.

"We are striking for the Green New Deal, for a fair and just transition to a 100% renewable economy, and for ending the creation of additional fossil fuel infrastructure. Additionally, we believe the climate crisis should be declared a national emergency because we are running out of time.”


September 17, 2019 at 9:10 PM

By: Linda Weide

Transportation on Friday and Total Numbers

Please report on what the transportation situation might be like on Friday and estimate total numbers of people might be. My colleague told me that Kenwood is taking 400 sophomores to the YCS. I am wondering what the total of people are expected and what the city is doing to provide transportation to accommodate this event.

September 18, 2019 at 8:29 PM

By: Theresa D. Daniels

Substance's cool reportage

Very cool this article. Love the pics. The young people will save the planet.

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