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Thousands take to the streets to demand climate action in Global Climate Strike

‘When our planet’s under attack, what do we do? Stand up! Fight back!’ protesters chanted.

Thousands marched from Grant Park to Federal Plaza Friday for the Chicago Youth Climate Strike, joining others from over 150 countries in demanding climate action ahead of a United Nations emergency climate summit next week.

The downtown protest was one of seven events around the city held in conjunction with the student-led Global Climate Strike movement, which noted on its website that 1,000 similar protests took place in the United States.

After convening in Grant Park at 11 a.m., protesters began their march chanting, “When our planet’s under attack, what do we do? Stand up! Fight back!”

At Federal Plaza, several speakers stood on benches and spoke to the crowd.

“We cannot force them to change but we can force them out of office. ... We must elect leaders who prioritize our futures,” said one of the young organizers of the strike.

Meanwhile, the Field Museum’s chief curiosity correspondent, Emily Graslie debunked theories on the realities of climate change.

“Scientists found that the rate at which earth is warming today has happened in just the last 150 years … so yeah we should be panicking,” Graslie said.

The strike effort was galvanized by students who have been walking out of school on Fridays over the last year to demand climate justice. Much inspiration comes from Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish environmentalist who crossed the Atlantic on a sailboat to attend the U.N.’s summit Monday.

Though the event was primarily organized by students, Chicago Public Schools did not give students the day off. Any CPS student who chose to participate and did not return to class was to receive an unexcused absence.

“Some elected officials and teachers and administration who didn't excuse your absence today will say that you are wasting time being here,” community organizer and activist Kina Collins told the crowd at Federal Plaza. “Shame on them!”

Collins is running against incumbent U.S. Rep. Danny Davis for the Democratic nomination in Illinois’ 7th Congressional District. She said fossil fuel emissions are ruining the planet and she refuses to accept any funding related to the industry during her campaign.

Organizations behind Friday’s demonstration include Sunrise Movement, 350 Chicago, Extinction Rebellion and Good Kid Mad City

Alice Bazerghi contributed to this report.