Several hundred protesters, many of them students, skipped school and work Friday afternoon to rally against climate change outside the Georgia State Capitol.
The rally coincided with the Global Climate Strike movement that saw thousands of youth-led events across the country, including about a dozen across Georgia. More climate rallies are scheduled through next Friday.
In Atlanta, protesters started around noon in front of City Hall, gathered in Liberty Plaza across from the Capitol building to make signs, and then they marched around the Capitol to the entrance steps, chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, climate change has got to go!”
Emma Hawkins and her friend, Ashby Robinson, decided on a whim to ditch their classes at Decatur High School after hearing about the rally online the day prior. Both 16 years old, the students were dropped off by Hawkins’ approving mother.
“If we don’t do something about it, we might not have school in the future,” Hawkins said.
The growing global strikes trace to 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, who drew worldwide attention for skipping Friday classes last year to protest outside Sweden’s parliament. Thunberg recently crossed the Atlantic Ocean on a solar-powered sailboat to attend the U.N. Climate Summit scheduled for Monday in New York.
The rally in Atlanta was organized by several groups including the youth-led Zero Hour Georgia. Several of the group’s leaders spoke to hundreds rallying at the Capitol steps, including Kailen Kim, a 17-year-old environmental and social justice activist who attends Etowah High School in Woodstock.
“The power is in the hands of the wrong people,” Kim said. “Corrupt politicians, greedy corporations, we’re striking today to remind them that the power is actually in our hands.”
Kids weren’t the only participants at the rally. U.S. Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Ted Terry both spoke from the Capitol steps.
Also, there was 91-year-old Jean Harsch, who said she who fought off tears as she looked over the crowd of students.
“What I’m feeling is hope from seeing all these young people here,” Harsch said. “I’ve wanted to leave the world better than I found it and I’ve been scared lately, but this really does give me hope.”