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Students flood State House during climate strike

Activists arrested in governor’s office

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the Banner’s senior editor. VIEW BIO
Students flood State House during climate strike
Activists sit in at the governor’s office. BANNER PHOTO

For all the talk of a warming climate and rising sea levels, Boston Latin School student Ciappara Abraham says she hasn’t seen much action. Last Friday, she joined several hundred other students who marched to the State House to demand action.

Jean Luc Wellington addresses demonstrators. BANNER PHOTO

Jean Luc Wellington addresses demonstrators. BANNER PHOTO

“I haven’t seen a lot of change,” she said. “I want to be a part of something bigger.”

The students marched into the State House, demanding action on several bills aimed at curbing carbon emissions statewide. A group of 27 activists affiliated with the Sunrise Movement, who sat in at Gov. Charlie Baker’s office, were arrested after they refused to leave after 5 p.m.

Standing outside the House chamber and outside Baker’s office and the office of House Speaker Robert DeLeo, demonstrators chanted, “We demand a Green New Deal,” referencing the legislative package of climate change mitigation bills backed by U.S. Sen. Edward Markey and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Students held a mock signing of the legislative bills they backed outside the House chamber, then brought them to the lobby outside Baker’s office where a student dressed in a white shirt and tie pretended to be Baker signing the bills into law.

“We have a full slate of bills to combat climate change,” said Tobias Dehner, a Boston Latin School senior from Jamaica Plain.

Demonstrators on the Boston Common. BANNER PHOTO

Demonstrators on the Boston Common. BANNER PHOTO

The Boston climate strike was timed to coincide with U.N. talks on climate change held in Madrid last week. Students from schools and colleges in Boston and surrounding suburbs gathered in Copley Square before marching to the State House to push for climate change bills.

While climate mitigation legislation is wending its way through the slow-moving State House process, students who participated in last week’s climate strike said the need for change is urgent.

“I live in South Boston, near Carson Beach,” said Fenway High School student Jean Luc Wellington. “Literally, it might not be there in a few years.”

Other students expressed similar sentiments. Climate scientists say humanity is in a race against time, with irreversible changes on the horizon if global carbon emissions aren’t drastically reduced by 2030. European countries including the United Kingdom, France, Sweden and Norway have pledged to implement policies with a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The students who demonstrated at the State House said similar measures must be taken in Massachusetts if they are to have a future here.

“We are so scared for our futures,” said Brian Stillwell, a 20-year-old college student from Boston. “We’re seeing extreme weather events. That’s why we’re asking Governor Baker to sign a Green New Deal bill.”

One piece of legislation students are eyeing is an Act Repowering Massachusetts With 100 Percent Renewable Energy, filed in 2018.

Wellington, whose brothers have asthma, said natural gas leaks in his neighborhood and school are particularly hard on people with respiratory ailments, in addition to polluting the environment. At Fenway High School, students were evacuated twice in the last two weeks because of gas leaks.

“They had us outside in the cold while they aired the gas out,” he said. “I want the governor to realize there are thousands of gas leaks in Boston.”

Although legislators typically spend Fridays in their districts, several, including Rep. Nika Elugardo of Jamaica Plain, were in attendance at the rally. Inside the State House, the student demonstrators did not secure a meeting with Baker, DeLeo or other legislative leaders, but they did gain press coverage.

“With the amount of press we had today, I think we made a difference,” said Griffin Gould, an Arlington High School student.

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