About 2,500 people march in downtown Bellingham as part of worldwide climate strike

About 2,500 people rallied at Bellingham City Hall and marched through downtown on Friday morning, Sept. 20, part of a worldwide series of school walkouts and demonstrations focused on climate change.

“Our goal is to demonstrate for climate justice in a peaceful way,” said Maren Werney, a Squalicum High sophomore and one of the student organizers.

Callie Showalter, a Squalicum sophomore and another one of the local organizers, said the youth-led movement has energized because adults and politicians have failed to act for years in the face dramatic environmental change.

“Now, teens must step forward and handle this giant issue. That’s why this movement is student-led,” she said.

Adults joined in the rally as well.

“I’m just here to support the students and the environment,” said DeeDee Davis of Bellingham.

Abigail McKinley of Sumas brought her two young children because of her concern for the environment. “We talk about it a lot,” she said. “I’m sure in time the more we talk and the more we do things to help, the bigger picture will come for them.”

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Students lead a crowd of about 2,500 people on a march for climate action after a rally outside of Bellingham City Hall Friday. Warren Sterling The Bellingham Herald

She said her children learn about recycling and try to make smart choices about the toys and other things they buy.

Climate Strike rallies were underway in several U.S. cities and in Washington state, including Seattle, Olympia, Kirkland, Wenatchee and Tacoma.

Climate Strike is the youth-led movement that formed around the School Strike for Climate and Fridays for Future school walkouts organized last year by Greta Thunberg of Sweden, the teenager who’s now in the United States calling for immediate action to address climate change in advance of next week’s United Nations climate summit.

Several hundred Bellingham students walked out of class for a similar rally March 15.

Friday was a day off for Bellingham students, but students from around the county would have to leave class to participate.

Zubin Ace, 9, went to the rally with his dad and some friends.

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Three young children stand at the front of a climate action rally outside of Bellingham City Hall Friday. Warren Sterling The Bellingham Herald

“When we think about the future, we think about having fun,” said Ace, a third-grader at Montessori of Samish Woods school, in a speech to the crowd.

“In my future, in our future, we want clean air to breathe, we want clean water to drink, we want clean food to eat, we want clean and safe communities to live in. The only way that’s possible is if our future is powered by 100% clean energy. To have all this, we need to act. We need to act now.”

As he listened from the crowd, Whatcom Middle student Rylan Neem, 12, said he came to the rally on a day off from school because he fears for the planet.

“The future doesn’t look promising,” he said. “Kids like us aren’t going to have a fair world to live in. It’s not fair to the kids if the adults don’t leave us a fair world to live in.”

After the morning rally, the crowd marched about a mile through downtown Bellingham, mostly staying on sidewalks but occasionally spilling onto the streets.

At least two instances of spray-painted graffiti were seen during the rally, slogans spray-painted on the front of City Hall and on the sidewalk in front of the Arch of Healing and Reconciliation.

City officials weren’t immediately available to answer questions about the apparent damage.

About 2,500 people rally at Bellingham City Hall on Friday morning, part of a worldwide series of school walkouts and demonstrations focused on climate change. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

Participants continued to join the march during the noon hour.

Retired educators Charm Miller-Davis and Jan Adams offered support for the commitment and resolve of the students who organized and participated in the rally and march.

“I’d like to leave (the Earth) a little bit better,” she said. “We’ve been selfish. It’s time for change.”

Ila Stotts, 9, carried a sign she made that said “Bake cookies, not the Earth,” a reference to global warming.

She said she attended because she wanted to feel like she was part of something bigger than herself.

“Just respect the Earth and everyone else,” she said.

Robert Mittendorf covers civic issues, weather, traffic and how people are coping with the high cost of housing for The Bellingham Herald. A journalist since 1984, he’s also a volunteer firefighter for South Whatcom Fire Authority.