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On March 15th, 2019, one million students from around the globe striked from school to show that they demand action on the ever-worsening climate problem. In New York City, five thousand students gathered at Columbus Circle and marched to the steps of the Natural History Museum. I, like many of the five thousand students, had a jam-packed day of action beginning at 7:15AM.

“My friend Julianna and I arrived at our strike location in downtown Closter at 7:45AM, after getting coffee from Dunkin Donuts.”

As I waited in the car, I scrolled through pictures from the strikes that were going on. Thousands of students had already started assembling on the other side of the earth. Soon, I would join them. My friend Julianna and I arrived at our strike location in downtown Closter at 7:45AM, after getting coffee from Dunkin Donuts. With our thermoses in one hand and signs in the other, we sat down on a bench facing the street and begun our day.

Ten minutes into our strike, a woman, clearly agitated, walked up to us and introduced herself as the property manager. When, as predicted, she asked us to leave, I found the courage to ask her where the sidewalk began, trying not to sound snarky. She, in turn, said that there was no sidewalk on this block, so we decided to move across the street. 

Despite the rocky start to the day, but as time went by, cars honked in support, pedestrians stopped to read our signs, and some people started a conversation with us. Middle schoolers on their way to schools stared at us from their cars.

At 9:10AM, we got on the bus to New York City, where we met up with a team of school strikers to do a sit-in at the Koch Industries office building. Katie Eder, the climate activist leading the sit-in, wrote the name and phone number of a lawyer on our arms, just in case we were arrested. On our walk from Pulitzer Fountain to Koch Industries, we chanted and sang, followed by reporters covering the action. When we reached the building, we stormed in and occupied the lobby. People inside immediately called the police, and after several minutes of chanting, we were forced to leave.

We continued the action outside, an inch from the property line.

“We continued the action outside, an inch from the property line.”

At 1PM, I joined the Zero Hour NYC team as they gathered in front of Trump Tower to strike. We were soon joined by a crowd of fellow strikers who arrived chanting, waving their signs. At first, we thought it was just a coincidence that they were here, but after talking with one of the strikers that came, it turns out that they had decided to come support the Zero Hour NYC strike. Standing in front of Trump Tower, a symbol of the world leader youths are calling out for not taking action on climate change, we felt a great sense of unity. At 1:30PM, we marched to Columbus Circle to join the thousands that had started rallying before the march.

Students gathered around as well as on the Maine Monument outside the entrance to Central Park. The march was led with banners saying, “Change is coming whether you like it or not” and “Whatever it takes.” Students marched along Central Park West, gathering in front of the Natural History Museum for the rally. There, student strikers occupied the entire museum entrance, even with some students sitting on the walls surrounding the courtyard. I recognized some strikers from previous events, but most of them were just regular students who had decided to skip school for a cause they believed in. Even students that couldn’t skip school came to the rally after classes ended.

Alexandria Villaseñor, lead organizer of the NYC School Strike and a Zero Hour member, introduced a series of student speakers.

To quote Eli Conlin, one of the student speakers from Zero Hour NYC: 

“We will show the world what the power of unity does. We are America. We are the Future. Our voices will go unheard no more.”

“We will show the world what the power of unity does. We are America. We are the Future. Our voices will go unheard no more.”

By striking on March 15th, the youth communicated three main demands:

  1. A reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in line with the October 2018 IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  2. Action from world leaders that ensures global warming remains under 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  3. Government officials and world leaders are to make policies and laws that help reverse the climate crisis and keep us below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Now, it is up to the government to listen to the students’ demands, to extend democracy to the youth, and take action, or else. Like the student strikers chant, we vote next.

About Rachel Lee

Rachel is a high school sophomore from Closter, NJ, who loves nature and is deeply pained by the destruction of our planet. She became a serious climate activist after watching a video by Bill Nye about the Canadian tar sands, and looks forward to building her career in environmental activism as the Co-Head of Zero Hour NYC, a coalition of city students dedicated to combating climate change.