Pittsburgh-area students participate in Global Climate Strike
Local students joined peers across the country and around the world Friday as they demonstrated in Downtown Pittsburgh in support for action on climate change.
“Communities in Western Pennsylvania are screaming and shouting for help, and are being ignored,” organizer Leandra Mira, 18, told a crowd at the City-County Building that poured over the sidewalk and onto Grant Street, blocking traffic. “I strike because those communities aren’t white enough or rich enough for our politicians to care about them, and I strike because someone needed to stand up for them.”
Mira, of Upper St. Clair, has been protesting at the City-County Building for the past 17 weeks. This time, she was joined by hundreds of protesters of all ages, many holding signs with messages like, “Policy change, not climate change,” “We demand a future” and “I’d be in school if the Earth were cool.”
“The one thing I’ve learned over this summer of striking is that the best solution for this crisis is looking into our own communities and solving the local environmental issues,” said Mira, who criticized poor air quality in Allegheny County and the public health implications of fracking in Washington County and a cracker plant in Beaver County.
Aidan Graber, 11, of Trafford was among the youngest speakers at the demonstration. He urged everyone — young and old — to ask their elected officials, from the governor to local representatives, to listen.
“I may be small, but I can have a big impact, and you can, too,” Graber said.
The event was one of more than 700 “Global Climate Strikes” scheduled worldwide, days ahead of the United Nations Summit on Climate Change starting in New York next week.
Friday’s demonstrations kicked off in 110 towns and cities across Australia — in a time zone 12 hours ahead of Pittsburgh — with thousands of protesters taking to the streets, the largest demonstration in Australia since the Iraq War in 2003, the Associated Press reported.
Climate Strikes took place in major U.S. cities, including Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
A similar event organized by the progressive organization Voice of Westmoreland was scheduled to take place at 4 p.m. Friday at the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg.
Students from the Greensburg-Salem School District, along with members of Voice of Westmoreland and other environmental groups, are scheduled to speak.
At the Downtown Pittsburgh rally, state Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Lawrenceville, praised the students for their initiative and urged them to continue holding elected officials, including herself, accountable.
“Do we want elected officials in office to be comfortable, or do we want them to fight for economic, social, racial and environmental justice for every single one of us?” Innamorato said.
Okay just kidding I *absolutely* will not sign any permission slips but I will definitely high five every student for their tenacity and leadership ❤️ https://t.co/JHDpNhdC7W
— Rep. Sara Innamorato (@RepInnamorato) September 20, 2019
Pittsburgh Public Schools could not provide an estimate for how many students were expected to leave school to attend the strike, but indicated that any student who left school without written permission would be marked tardy or absent, according to a statement.
Parents and guardians were permitted to grant students permission to participate in the demonstration, but were asked by the district to follow early dismissal procedures and to provide written consent, the statement said.
On Thursday evening on Twitter, Mayor Bill Peduto retweeted the school district’s policy, adding that “I will also be signing permission slips for students tomorrow” during the Friday rally. In reaction, school board member Moira Kaleida reminded students and families that students could only be signed out by parents or guardians, “not random elected officials,” she said in a Tweet. On Friday, Peduto clarified he would “only sign slips that have a parent’s signature,” and the city issued a statement that the mayor “will co-sign such permission slips for youths interested in validating their attendance at the historic event.”
Agree. I will only sign slips that have a parents signature. They will verify to the school & parent that the student attended the event & was present at the City County Building Portico between 12 noon & 1230PM. https://t.co/geuLeCmzgn
— bill peduto (@billpeduto) September 20, 2019
Peduto made an appearance at the demonstration, standing alongside students at the City-County Building, but did not speak.
“Today’s voices are being heard around the world,” Peduto said in a tweet following the event. “They are not the voices of our future. They are the voices of our present.”
Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter .