Local students take to the streets in climate strike

Published: Sep. 20, 2019 at 11:27 AM EDT
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Millions of people all across the world marched Friday demanding action on climate change. What started with a plea from a Swedish teenager ended with students and others hitting the streets in New York City, Australia, Kenya, India and right here at home.

Burlington Police estimate up to 2,000 people joined the global climate march in the Queen City. A number of business on Pine Street closed their doors. And even though they may have lost revenue, they say it was worth it.

"Businesses are fed up with the inaction of our government to take the climate crisis seriously," said Ashley Orgain with Seventh Generation, one of many businesses to close their doors. "We have shut down our operations today and we are out in the streets, marching with our employees and our communities standing up and demanding climate action."

Burlington restaurants The Spot and The Spot on the Dock, as well as retailer WND and WVS, closed for the most of the afternoon. "I think for us to close our doors, and really bring it close to home is really important for us," said The Spot's Shannon Lipkin.

The march slowed traffic on Pine Street for about an hour. "At first... I was like, man I need to get to work, this is putting me behind. Now, I'm just happy," said local resident Bridget Collins.

The crowd made their way to Church Street where students from Burlington schools and colleges rallied with various speakers.

Business owners in the crowd say it is important for their companies to show support for the cause. "It makes us stronger," said Christine Dodson with Mamava.

Burlington Police monitored the crowd and ensured things did not get out of hand. While a portion of Main Street was shut down for a few hours, police say they had a plan in place for emergency vehicles and were able to control the flow of traffic.

"We allowed people who had opinions to express, to have freedom of expression and to move through the streets, and that we maximized the ability of people to move through the streets as well," said Burlington Police Deputy Chief Jon Murad.

Some businesses only closed for a portion of the day but others like Burton shut down operations globally and even closed their website, only forwarding people to information about the climate strike.


About 400 students in the Montpelier area walked out of school to send a message to lawmakers.

Along with the students that set out from from Montpelier High School at 9 a.m. came organizations including Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion. Organizers say they want stricter policies to curb greenhouse gasses, rising sea levels, and global warming.

"Any way that we can get lawmakers to take us seriously and take steps like the Green New Deal and things related to the carbon tax. There's a lot of stuff we could be doing even on the small level that we haven't done any steps to do," said Gabe Goveman with Youth Achievement of America.

In an act of civil disobedience, activists and students walked down Route 2 and blocked traffic on the way to city hall. After the rally, hundreds lay down in the street staging a "die-in."

"We're the ones that are going to bear the burden the most and are dealing with this issue the most. And who better than to say something because the adults aren't saying something. They haven't been saying something. They've have their whole lives to say something. It's now life or death with my future in their hands," said Lena Donofrio, a student protester. "All of us as a society, even the younger generation, need to step forward and make changes and I would say the older generations are at fault. But what's done is done so we just need to move forward."

In addition to actions planned next week by some groups, organizers have another protest planned for October 17th at the Statehouse.


Climate protests were held around the Upper Valley, including one in Claremont, New Hampshire. Participants there also said they want action and that Friday's events put the issue of climate change in the headlines.

Earlier, hundreds of activists linked arms in Norwich and a rally was also held in Thetford.

A handful of students from the Stevens High School took part in the Claremont action. "Whether it's a PR stunt or whether someone actually cares about what people think, I hope that people will actually take it seriously and realize that we have the power to change this, especially us as a future generation," said Charles Shenise, a senior.

"I hope that they will understand that if we all don't work together on this and we all don't make a contribution, we are in trouble," said Robin Hutchins of Claremont.

The Claremont event included a penny poll. Participants voted using pennies where they would like their tax dollars spent. Options included health care, food and the environment.

Expect big crowds in #BTV today as part of the #VermontClimateStrike. @OneNorthAvenue will work to balance ALL our neighbors' rights—freedom of expression and freedom to get where you need to go. #besafe

Posted by Burlington Police Department on Friday, September 20, 2019

TRAFFIC ADVISORY UPDATE 11:00 AM: Main Street is now open. Main Street is currently shut down between Barre Street...

Posted by Montpelier Police Department on Friday, September 20, 2019