Hundreds join Greta Thunberg in climate protest outside the UN
Climate activist and young strikers gathered in New York to call on adults to act on global crisis
Young people including Swedish activist Greta Thunberg (centre) participate in a climate strike outside the United Nations in New York on Friday. Photograph: Alba Vigaray/EPA
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was joined by hundreds of American teenagers protesting outside the UN headquarters in New York on Friday calling for adults to act on the crisis of global heating.
The young protesters – many who said they had been inspired by the 16-year-old to take action and for some of whom it marked their first ever climate demonstration – gathered outside the iconic Manhattan building at 11am.
Carrying hand-drawn placards with messages such as “united behind the science” and “act now or we will”, children and young people of all ages from New York and nearby states such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey, met at a park in front of the flags of the world outside the UN.
Holding her trademark “skolstrejk för klimatet” (“school strike for climate”) sign, Thunberg sat in the middle of the rally where young activists gave speeches about calling for action on the climate crisis amid chants including “System change, not climate change” and “Don’t just watch us, join us”.
Just two days ago, Thunberg arrived in the US on a yacht, more than two weeks after setting sail from England, ready to attend the UN general assembly meeting of world leaders next month, where there is a special summit about the planet’s climate emergency.
In an interview shortly after disembarking, she said she wanted “a concrete plan, not just nice words” from leaders about taking urgent and comprehensive action to head off the climate crisis.
On Friday morning, American teenager Alexandria Villaseñor (14), who has been protesting every Friday outside the UN since December, was in her usual spot and said she had been inspired by Thunberg’s school strike campaign.
“Greta being here in the United States and in America will really galvanise students just because of how much of an inspiration she is. Everyone who’s been striking on Friday was really empowered by Greta and the action she was taking,” she said.
After just one full day to recover from her crossing on the Malizia II racing yacht in rough seas, life on which she has described as “camping on a rollercoaster”, Thunberg was already back to protesting.
Villaseñor, who is thought to be America’s first school striker to join the movement and has been exchanging tips with Thunberg online, had been among the group of American climate activists who welcomed her to the US when her yacht docked at North Cove Marina.
Villaseñor said: “What’s really important about Greta being here today is it’s the start of something new because with the United Nations climate summit coming up it is the way for all the youth to unite here and send a message to world leaders at that climate summit. So even though Greta’s voyage on Malizia ended a couple of days ago, the climate action we will take on this continent has really just begun.”
Other US youth have been spurred into action and gathered also on Friday.
She said: “I’ve been having climate anxiety for a long time and then I heard about Greta and how she was striking in front of her parliament and I was confused why Europe was starting to ‘catch the fire’ but why it wasn’t crossing the ocean.”
She added: “And then Alexandria started in this city, that was very shocking to me, actually, and it inspired me, kind of fuelled my fire and just went from there. Her coming to another continent on a boat, that proved a pretty big point, coming to America [where] we have not called the climate emergency.”
On Wednesday, Thunberg said that her generation had been put in a position of having to “clean up” the climate crisis that the generations above her have caused.
For Dana Henao (16), from Brentwood, Long Island, Friday’s was her first climate protest.
“The government isn’t taking enough action to protect the environment and all they care about is the money they make with corporations polluting the planet and I think we should put a stop to it,” she said. “The young people are the only ones taking action and we want to call attention to this.”
She added: “She [Greta] is really popular and she’s like, the face of the movement.”– Guardian