Chicago climate strike: Youth join global climate change call for action

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Friday, in downtown Chicago and around the world, hundreds of thousands of young people came together to demand action on climate change.

In downtown Chicago thousands of students, some as young as third-graders, joined activists and climate change action supporters as part of the world-wide Climate Change Strike.

The youth led both the organization of the demonstrations and the marches themselves. The main youth organizers of the strike are the Illinois Youth Climate Strike Organization. Their demands are straightforward: climate justice and for local leaders to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

The act could help bring clean energy jobs to Illinois, and transition the state to a clean energy economy.

Many high school students from around the Chicago area, like activist Serena Worley, passionately spoke about passing the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

"Don't act because we're telling you to, act because the science is as clear as it can possibly be," Worley said.

"There's tons of people here because this is something that's very real. Something that's affecting everybody," said Daniel Velazquez, Lane Tech student.

"We're at a point where if we don't do something, then what?" said Stephanie McKenna, student.

Earlier, different youth groups hosted smaller rallies throughout the Chicagoland area, including one in Grant Park before a massive march downtown to Federal Plaza.

The crowd got so large that as speakers addressed the main group at Federal Plaza, there were a small group of people further away who hosted their own smaller rally.

The crowds spilled out into city streets, forcing police to temporarily shut them down.

"We have courage. You know, this is really a courageous moment for the entire planet to come together and demand change," said Emily Grasile, chief curiosity correspondent for the Field Museum.

The Field Museum supported the climate strikers and sent out 100 staff members to march and rally. The Field Museum also offered free admission for Illinois residents after the protest ends.

Activist Isabella Johnson and several other students said that they are terrified for their future because of climate change.

"I'm striking because I will not accept climate change as an unsolvable problem," Johnson said. "I am striking because my generation's lives depend on it."

The protests are partly inspired by the activism of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who has staged weekly demonstrations under the heading "Fridays for Future" over the past year, calling on world leaders to step up their efforts against climate change. Thunberg is expected to speak at the U.N. Climate Action Summit on Monday.

Organizers estimate more than 300,000 protesters took to Australian streets in what would be the country's biggest demonstration since the Iraq War in 2003.

Smaller protests took place in Asia, from the Philippines to Hong Kong and India.

"We need to reclaim our constitutional right to clean air and water," said Aman Sharma, a 16-year-old protester in India's capital New Delhi.

Rallies were also planned in Europe, Africa and the United States, where organizers say more than 800 events are expected Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2019 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.