Youth activists shut down central Washington D.C. this morning to demand political action on climate change, immigration, and racial issues. “Our Generation, Our Choice” allowed multiple movements to join forces on the streets and rally around political injustices.
“Youth as a collective are in crisis and face all kinds of obstacles in achieving our own potential. We are standing here collectively — which is not something we see all the time — to be here with one voice,” said Varshini Prakash, regional networks coordinator at Divest Student Network. “We need our politicians to follow our lead… and start making real changes on polices and the way our country is run.”
The protest was organized by 350.org, Million Hoodies, United We Dream, and Fossil Fuel Divestment Students Network. Held exactly one year before the 2016 presidential election, the groups’ objective was to to deliver an agenda of justice for youth and call out the present failures in America’s political system. The groups started the march from Franklin Square to Lafayette Park in front of the White House at 8 a.m., during the morning rush of commuters, and the events concluded by 11 a.m.
“Our government has not taken the right action — and sometimes no action — on these issues that are so important to all of our lives,” said Erin Bridges, a student member of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement. She was also a keynote speaker at the march. “People are dying right now, our lands are being completely destroyed, and our futures are in jeopardy. And in the face of all that what else can we do but fight back?”
Impacts from climate change are disproportionately felt by low-income communities and communities of color in the United States, whether it is health effects from fossil fuel emissions, fracking, or pollution from waste. Communities are also being displaced due to effects from climate change and rising sea levels across the globe. Just last week a group of congressmen raised environmental justice concerns over a proposed pipeline being located near African American neighborhoods in southwest Georgia.
Devontae Torriente, head of the Million Hoodies chapter at American University, spoke at the march about divesting from “all the negative things” that perpetuate our country, including fossil fuels, the private prison industry, and police militarization, and reinvesting that money into alternative solutions.
“All of these different movements are building so much momentum right now, so we are combining that momentum to bring about all the action we want together,” said Torriente. “We are at a pivotal point in history where we are on the cusp of all this change taking place, and I think we just have to keep pushing to make sure that change comes. We are here to hold everyone accountable to us, not just the presidential contenders.”
A Salon article authored by Torriente and other activists points out that Congress is currently 80 percent white, 80 percent male, and 92 percent Christian, making it the most diverse it has ever been.
“We are leading the way,” said Varshini Prakash. “We have these solutions. We know what we want the world to look like.”