- Adam Thomas
By Adam R. Thomas, Reporter
On All Saint’s Day, Nov. 1, hundreds of environmental protestors gathered outside of downtown Los Angeles’ City Hall before marching to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s nearby office early in the afternoon and back again to rally with more speeches, including from the headliner, Greta Thunberg.
The once holy day was most likely coincidental, but fitting. There was a definite reverence in the air reserved for Thunberg. The 16 year-old climate activist showed up at the end of the event organized by LA Youth Climate Strike to deliver a speech to a cheering and adoring crowd that never grew to a terribly large size for a downtown Los Angeles protest. It roughly hit a peak attendance of 1,000 to 1,500 attendees.
At the start of the event shortly after noon, a few hundred people gathered in front of a stage set up in front of City Hall with a pair of very large television screens and an extensive sound system.
After several minutes of waiting around in the roughly 85-degree heat of the afternoon, the digital muzak was broken through when Lydia Ponce, an indigenous organizer with the American Indian Movement, was the first to take the stage to cheers from the crowd.
“Good afternoon!” said Ponce at the dais. “Yagna, relatives. You stand on Yagna land. Tongva. Anybody else saying different, they just don’t know and you can teach them.”
With these words, Ponce introduced a number of indigenous speakers, singers, and dancers, who performed for the mostly white, mostly not composed of youth crowd in attendance. This included students from Anahuacalmecac International Preparatory High School, LA Unified’s only indigenous charter school.
“What I am asking is that you help campaign to pass the Green New Deal,” said Ponce. “Had we had these kinds of conversations [in the past] globally, and locally, then we wouldn’t be in the kind of disastrous climate crisis emergency that we are in now.”
During the presentation, at least one woman in the crowd appeared to faint from the heat before attendees and organizers procured a chair for her to sit in. Soon after, members from the Oakland/Bay Area group Youth vs. Apocalypse rallied the crowd and directed them to begin the planned march for the day.
With a police escort and guided by event staff, the attending crowd gathered near Broadway and 1st Street between the Los Angeles Law Library and the empty lot currently bulwarked by the most visible homeless encampment in Los Angeles. They then began their march down Broadway for two blocks before making a left on 3rd Street, where the marchers halted for several minutes to chant in front of Newsom’s downtown offices.
“If it has to go on, it has to go on, right? I mean, it’s for the kids,” said Adrian Medina, a homeless man currently occupying a tent on the sidewalk of 1st Street near the empty lot.
Medina’s positive sentiments about the march were echoed by Zach Gallagher, who watched from the Blue Bottle Coffee shop as the marchers passed on the corner of 3rd and Broadway.
“I do believe that climate change is the existential threat of our time,” added Gallagher. “And I believe that young people understand that they’re going to live through the repercussions, obviously, and they’re making noise so that people in charge can take responsibility.”
After a series of guided chants in front of Newsom’s office, the marchers then continued their circuit, making another left onto Spring Street and moving up Spring back to the stage in front of city hall. Another series of speakers from other young Climate Strike LA organizers began, including from Nizgui Gomez, a Santa Monica College student who lives and organizes in Wilmington as a part of Youth for Environmental Justice.
“The reality is that people of color like myself and my community are often facing attacks in places where we learn, sleep and play,” said Gomez. “I believe that this isn’t right! We should live in healthy communities free from fossil fuels and that is why I am standing with you all today.”
Gomez then detailed her activism in 2015 with Youth for Environmental Justice to sue the City of Los Angeles for rubber stamping approvals for oil drilling permits in her neighborhood.
“The city settled, and recreated new public processing guidelines for new oil drilling. Personally, this victory was a very big moment for me. I have never felt so powerful, and I am so happy knowing that youth of color can put a stop to big oil!”
After cheers from the crowd and a few more speakers, it was finally time for the headliner of the day’s events: Thunberg herself. After thanking the events’ organizers, the spritely Swedish teenager whose face adorned numerous signs held aloft by those listening and cheering for her began her remarks:
“Today in California we can see the wildfires happening just around the corner. Wildfires that are being intensified by the climate crisis. But it’s not just here, everywhere around the world we can see these horrible environmental feedbacks that countless people are suffering and dying from. Right now, we are living in the beginning of a climate and ecological breakdown, and we cannot continue to look away from it anymore…
The older generations are failing us. They are failing future generations. Future generations that do not have a voice. And the biosphere doesn’t have a voice. So, we will be the voice that speaks up for them. And we will be the voice that speaks up for ourselves. Right now, that is what we are doing, we are speaking up. That is what we will continue to do every day that we strike, and every single day that goes by. We are speaking up, and we will not be silenced. Do you think they are listening to us? Well, we will make them listen!”
Shortly after Thunberg finished her remarks and took photos with the events’ organizers, the assembled crowd—already partially dissipated from the hours of standing in the heat—largely dispersed while the younger event staff thanked the many “adult allies” that helped make the day possible.
Thunberg was quietly escorted off the premises shortly afterward, while those still in attendance waited around for one last glimpse of a uniquely different kind of celebrity sighting for the average Angeleno.