Thousands march in San Francisco, other cities, to draw attention to global climate change ahead of world summit

by in News

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SAN FRANCISCO — Days before world leaders descend on San Francisco for a highly-anticipated climate action summit, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets calling on those leaders to take action to solve the global climate crisis.

Joining cities around the world in the “Rise for Climate” movement, more than 1,000 people gathered early Saturday at Embarcadero Plaza to demand urgent action to reduce the world’s reliance on fossil fuels and increase green energy. By the time they marched down Market Street toward Civic Center — banging drums, playing instruments, waving colorful signs and burning incense and sage — the crowd was 30,000-strong. It was likely the largest climate rally on the West Coast, according to organizers.

“We’re sending a message to the elected officials and corporate executives gathering for the summit next week that we need equitable, community-led solutions, not profit-driven approaches like cap-and-trade that allow big polluters to buy and sell our right to clean air and a stable climate,” said Miya Yoshitani, executive director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network.

Climate change has become a contentious topic in recent years under a president that has denied its existence. Many environmental activists, politicians and leaders have doubled down to spread awareness on the issue, even as the Trump administration looks to thwart conservation efforts.

About 50 marchers Saturday on Commonwealth Avenue in Fullerton demanded measures to fight climate change. Activists around the world participated in “Rise for Climate” protests before a climate summit taking place Sept. 12-Sept. 14 in San Francisco. California Gov. Jerry Brown proposed the event after President Donald Trump vowed to pull the U.S. out of a landmark 2015 climate accord. Photo by Thomas Bray/Southern California News Group

President Trump didn’t publicly comment on the rallies Saturday. But his efforts to roll back environmental regulations and expand offshore oil drilling off the California coast gave extra urgency to Saturday’s event and at least one sign depicted a globe topped by a rendering of the president’s long, wispy hair: “You can’t comb over climate change.”

Berkeley resident Aya de Leon said she marched to send a message to elected officials and to people feeling hopeless about whether anything can be done to stop the global warming that is causing extreme storms, droughts and sea level rise around the world.

“Any time people come together like this, it reminds us how powerful we really are,” de Leon said.

The San Francisco rally — organized by 350 Bay Area — came just days before thousands of world leaders, environmentalists, celebrities, activists and researchers arrive in San Francisco for a global climate summit Sept. 12-14 spearheaded by the United Nations and Gov. Jerry Brown.

The summit aims to inspire cities, states, provinces, countries and corporations to increase their commitments to reduce the use of fossil fuels, increase renewable energy and take other steps to slow climate change.

On Saturday, Native American and indigenous groups from around the globe — determined to preserve their land and the world’s natural resources — proudly stood at the front of the line on the  march to Civic Center, where there was music, art, and a resource fair.

Among the speakers was Mirian Cisneros, president of the Kichwa People of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Cisneros was brought to the event by Amazon Watch, an environmental nonprofit.

“I come from the living forest,” Cisneros said through an interpreter. “I also come from a people that have fought for years and years against the threat of oil drilling. I am here in this large march with brothers and sisters from the whole planet because we understand that we have to leave fossil fuels in the ground in the Amazon rainforest and everywhere.”

Desiree Adams, of Antioch, who is Navajo, said it’s sacred that we “acknowledge that we are still a part of this land.”

“There are very few of us who will show up and let people know we’re still here,” she said.

Similar events took place across the U.S. and beyond Saturday, from Brazil to Nigeria, Turkey and India.

Next week’s three-day climate action summit is expected to host more than 4,000 delegates from six continents.