Protesters gathered at the State Capitol to advocate for more environmental policies. (Lara Cayci)
Protesters gathered at the State Capitol to advocate for more environmental policies.

Lara Cayci

Climate strike unites Minnesota youth

September 21, 2019

“Hey hey, ho ho, fossil fuels have got to go. Hey hey, ho ho, fossil fuels have got to go,” a crowd of nearly 8,000, mostly students, chanted yesterday morning as they marched from the Western Sculpture Park to where they gathered in front of the Capitol.

“I think we’re at the point that it just needs to be known that [climate change is] real and needs to be accepted,” junior Gavin Kimmel said.

“All of the legislators will look out their windows and see the amount of people who actually care about this. How it’s a very important issue to very many people, and this is actually what I feel like democracy is about: people showing what they want to the people in power and hopefully producing some meaningful change from that,” senior Sydney Therien said. 

Inspired by leaders like Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old environmental activist from Sweden, approximately 1.2 million youth attended climate strikes across the country on Sept. 20. Isra Hirsi, the daughter of Ilhan Omar, US Representative for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, is the founder of U.S. Youth Climate Strike, an organization that helped coordinate the protest. Hirsi was one of several speakers at the strike. Other speakers included St. Paul city councilmember Mitra Jalali Nelson and Kandace Montgomery of the Black Visions Collective, as well as some of the student organizers of the march. 

We’re at the point that it just needs to be known that [climate change is] real and needs to be accepted.

— Gavin Kimmel

“Look at what we’ve been able to do. We’ve been able to change the conversation from metal straws and recycling to fundamental policy changes with an emphasis on climate justice,” co-chair of the MN climate strike Mia DiLorenzo said to the crowd. 

DiLorenzo’s fellow co-chair, Juwaria Jama, a sophomore at Spring Lake Park high school, performed a spoken word piece she had written.

“There’s something the whole world should know: we aren’t generation Z. We aren’t the last to live. And we won’t let this crisis be, we won’t let this crisis be the be-it-all for our generation because we are the era of the Green New Deal. We are Gen GND, and we are just getting started,” Jama said in her poem.

After hearing from speakers, protesters headed into the Capitol building to participate in a die-in under the rotunda to mourn lives lost to climate change.

This was the first student walk out of 2019. The last was for the March for Our Lives protest for gun control in April 2018.

This story is featured in Best of SNO.

Desire for change apparent on protest posters

The variety of poster styles at the march was distinct, but the message was united: it’s time to do something about climate change at the legislative level: time to impose new regulations on corporations, provide funding for climate scientists to stop global warming, and create city infrastructures that are kinder to the planet.


Poet uses spoken word to protest climate injustice

Juwaria Jama, the co-state lead for the MN Climate Strike and a sophomore at Spring Lake Park high school, read a spoken word poem at the strike.

[PHOTOSTORY] Why did students leave school for the Climate Strike?

Strikers say missing about 4 hours of school was worth it.

This Friday, some SPA students left school to participate in the Minnesota Youth Climate Strike at the St. Paul Capitol. 

Senior Paige Indritz organized those students’ participation in the event, by spreading information about the strike and organizing the transportation there. The students met in the Huss Commons at 10:40 am and took the bus together to the strike.

Some SPA student strikers came back to school in time for the last block of the day, but many never returned to school Friday afternoon, missing approximately 4 hours of school. 

The student strikers who left school for the Climate Strike had a variety of opinions on the subject of climate change, but they were united in their passion for the issue.

Sophomores Val Chafee and Tyler Christensen both believe that the issue of climate change has been filled with people who have good intentions but are focusing on the wrong parts of environmentalism.  

[Climate change] is an issue that’s going to affect our generation the hardest. So we have to stand up and do something about it now.

— Ellie Dawson-Moore

Chafee highlighted the people who post about climate but never take impactive action.

“Climate change is terrible, and not enough people care. They post on Instagram, and then they never do anything,” she said.

Christensen referenced the recent trend of replacing plastic straws with reusable ones in an attempt to reduce the number of turtles dying due to ingesting plastic straws.

“We should turn our attention away from [the small picture], like reusable straws, […] and turn our attention to the big corporations that are polluting our oceans with billions of gallons of chemicals and raising carbon emissions by extreme amounts,” she said.

Senior Sydney Therien, junior Gabriella Thompson, sophomore Naci Konar-Steenberg, and ninth-grader Sila Liljedahl all seem to agree that there isn’t enough action being taken on the issue of climate change.

“[Climate change] is real and it’s about damn time something started happening to fix it,” Therien said.

Thompson came to the Climate Strike to call out the government.

“I am here because climate change is killing us and our government is not doing enough to stop it. The studies show that we’re going to be in a lot of trouble really, really soon and that we already are. So we’re here to make our voices heard,” she said.

Konar-Steenberg is disappointed in the lack of action up until this point.

“People knew [climate change] was happening in the 1950s. And it’s taken us 70 years to start actually doing things about it, which is disturbing, to say the least,” he said.

Liljedahl, who was the only SPA ninth-grader at the strike, is worried about what may happen if big steps aren’t taken soon.

It’s a really important issue and it’s something that our generation is ready to take on.

— senior Paige Indritz

“[Climate change] is important and there’s not enough being done about it. Things need to change really fast,” she said.

Junior Gavin Kimmel believes that the act of leaving school in the name of climate justice spreads awareness of the issue. He also participated in the strike for another reason.

“I am here because my sister couldn’t come, so I came for her,” Kimmel said.

Senior Paige Indritz and sophomore Ellie Dawson-Moore stressed the unification of their generation on the issue of climate change.

“We don’t know enough about climate change. I don’t even know enough about climate change. But, it’s a really important issue and it’s something that our generation is ready to take on,” Indritz said.

“[Climate change] is an issue that’s going to affect our generation the hardest. So we have to stand up and do something about it now,” Dawson-Moore said.

Some of the speakers at the Climate Strike spoke on the intersectionality of the climate crisis with other issues, such as race. Junior Katherine Goodman shared this sentiment.

“[Climate change] is connected to many other issues and […] we need to address both climate change and those issues simultaneously if we want to effect real change,” she said.

Although the strikers had different motivations for leaving school to go to the Climate Strike, their shared passion for climate justice and unity together justified their absence from school.

Climate strike organizers talk planning, involvement, and next steps


Eloise Duncan

Senior Paige Indritz helped SPA students interested in the strike get organized. “What I want to have happen next is that everyone can have a conversation about the implications of climate change, what we can do to change it, and how we can promote this change within the government,” Indritz said.

Plans have been in the works for the Sept. 20 climate strike since July, co-chair of MN Strikes Back and sophomore at Spring Lake Park high school Juwaria Jama told The Rubicon.

“We started planning for the strike in July, and planning took a lot of us partnering with a lot of different organizations, we’ve been working closely with Friends of the Earth, MN350, and a lot of these are organizations that came together to help us delegate tasks, things that we needed,” Jama said.

Using social media to spread the word was a large part of the preparation for the strike, as well as planning events to drum up awareness prior to the day of the protest.

“We did a lot of work on Instagram and our Facebook and our Twitter, and we worked with our partners to do a lot of volunteer work. We had a couple of events planned before the strike that included things like an art build, we had a workshop in July, and so we’re doing a lot of this work to educate people about the climate justice movement and what the climate crisis means, and get them involved in strikes like this and beyond,” Jama said.

At SPA, senior and recruitment captain Paige Indritz helped SPA students interested in the strike get organized by telling them what to bring and how to get there, as well as communicating with the administration about the Sept. 20 plan. She became a recruitment captain for the strike after a friend she had made at her 2018 semester away program asked her to help organize. 

“A recruitment captain is someone who helps spread the word about the strike. And technically a recruitment captain is supposed to get ten other people and another recruitment captain so that that recruitment captain can get more people,” Indritz explained.

Most protesters, like Indritz, had heard about the strike from friends. 

“My friend Isabelle is the co-financial director for the strike, so she’s obviously very invested in it and she really talked to me about how we’re rescuing the climate, essentially, and how important it is to our lives. And that’s how I got involved. I became my school lead for organizing the event,” junior Jacob Dereje, the school lead for Apple Valley high school, said.

Everyone has a different story of how they initially got involved. Junior Gavin Kimmel felt pressure from the increasing presence of climate change in the news, as well as from his environmentally-minded younger sister.

Eloise Duncan
Senior Paige Indritz poses for a photo at the strike.

“I think we’ve been seeing more and more things coming up that are like, it’s a crisis and I think this is a good call to action. My sister has also been harping on my family to become more eco-friendly and sustainable and so I think continuing to do anything I can to promote the well-being of our planet,” Kimmel said.

Co-financial director and junior at Apple Valley High School Isabelle Wong was inspired by her work in politics.

“I intern with Senator Greg Clausen and Representative Erin Maye Quaide and I know [events related to climate change] are happening, so I wanted to find an outlet to promote awareness about these things and find a solution that everyone would be able to accept,” Wong said.

Wong’s family also inspired her to take action.

“In Indonesia, already, 40% of the population is being affected by the climate crisis. And since I have family there, that really concerns me. And one big thing that’s happening in Indonesia is that they are trying to figure out a way to move the capitol because Jakarta, the capitol of Indonesia, is sinking,” Wong said.

The leaders are hoping for the strike to become a pattern of action. 

“One thing that I’m hoping after the strike is that people continue staying involved,” Jama said. 

Kimmel hopes that people will think about the responsibility that both individuals and corporations have to be more environmentally friendly.

“I think that people need to realize two things – one is that a lot of things that are happening to our planet are because of corporations, so not to beat yourself up because you’re not being as eco-friendly as you could or should be, but also taking that step because it’s still important to take action yourself, and change things in your daily life to better the planet,” Kimmel said.

Dereje said he wishes people knew “how easy it is to go out of your comfort zone. Just try something new. Just try to do one different thing to aid the climate as a whole.”

Just try something new. Just try to do one different thing to aid the climate as a whole.

— Jacob Dereje, school lead for Apple Valley High School

Indritz called for an open dialogue about climate change.

“What I want to have happen next is that everyone can have a conversation about the implications of climate change, what we can do to change it, and how we can promote this change within the government,” Indritz said.

Wong expressed hope for a specific change in policy.

“After today, I really hope that the Green New Deal is passed because that’s something really helpful and it just unites everyone against the climate crisis,” Wong said.

The rally in St. Paul was one of more than 3,000 planned in 120 countries. Other climate events in Minnesota included gatherings in Duluth, Bemidji, and Minneapolis.

One thing is for sure.

“This isn’t the end,” Jama said. “We’re just getting started.”

Moments from Friday’s Climate Protest

The Climate Strike extended far beyond Minnesota, with an estimated 150 countries, 2000 cities, and 1.4 million teens protesting globally, according to the Global Climate Strike website.

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