Climate Strike events planned across Michigan Friday

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Multiple Michigan cities and organizations plan to join worldwide participants of the Friday Global Climate Strike in calling for action against climate change.

The events are part of a worldwide event in which young people and adults plan to call for transformative climate action by elected officials, preceding countries convening at the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit on Monday in New York City. 

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

Demonstrating is necessary in order to push leaders to legitimate action, said Lea Dyga, a coordinator for the 12 p.m. protest at the Michigan Capitol in Lansing.

“We need more factual conversation amongst our elected officials,” said Dyga, a Michigan State University student and member of the Sunrise Movement. “In America, the dialect is we believe or we do not believe it [climate change]. In other nations like the European Union, they talk about it as, ‘Are we doing something, or are we not doing something?’”

The Lansing Climate Strike is hosted by four organizations: Sunrise Lansing, Extinction Rebellion East Lansing, MSU Young Democratic Socialists of America and Greater Lansing Democratic Socialists of America. Organization members plan to give speeches and then march to the office of U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) to ask him to pledge to not accept donations from fossil fuel corporations.

Dyga said organizers also reached out to younger students in the Lansing area, including those at East Lansing and Okemos high schools.

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“We did make an effort to reach out to high schoolers and enable them to come to the strike if they’d like,” Dyga said.

The Lansing strike and global movement are inspired by the work of Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist. 

“I stress, knowing this is a very global movement, that it’s not just happening in Lansing – it’s happening all over Michigan, all over the United States, all over the world,” Dyga said.

Other Michigan cities with events are Kalamazoo, Traverse City and Manistee. Climate awareness events have also been organized at MSU, University of Michigan, Central Michigan University and Calvin University.

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University of Michigan protesters made headlines at the last climate strike, held on March 15, when eight student activists were arrested for trespassing.

On Friday, six of the demonstrators appeared in court for their pre-trial hearing before the official motion, which is scheduled for Oct. 10. The defendants pleaded not guilty for the crime at their arraignment on June 17.

The protestors were arrested following a seven-hour sit-in in the Fleming Administrative Building, where the president’s office is located. The demonstrators refused to leave the building until President Mark Schlissel agreed to a one-hour public meeting to discuss climate action plans for the university and understand the group’s list of demands

Now as some of the last protesters to leave the building on March 15 are on trial for misdemeanor charges, the Washtenaw County Climate Strike organization is back to continue the fight as part of Friday’s global climate strike. 

Hoai-An Pham, a community organizer with Washtenaw County Climate Strike, says this demonstration will be “more structured.” She said there will be a series of workshops, one of which is focused on the arrested protesters. 

“We want to make sure that people are given the tools to learn how to organize themselves,” she said. 

While Pham said event coordinators are not expecting any arrests and are “not engaging in any behavior that would risk arrest in any way,” the previous charges against protesters are still a concern. 

“Our university, at this moment, is really putting in more effort in making sure that these people are getting prosecuted for their actions vs. putting energy into transformative climate action. That’s definitely on people’s minds,” she said. 

“From where we are standing, from March 15 to now, the only thing that has changed from the university is that now they are prosecuting eight climate organizers. They haven’t done any action, there has been no climate justice.”

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