Hundreds of Eastside residents lined Lake Washington Boulevard with vibrant and oversized signs on the afternoon of Sept. 20. Onlookers and drivers shouted and honked in support while driving past Houghton Beach Park.
A group of four high school students organized Kirkland’s climate strike.
Jolie Simone Barga, a freshman at Lake Washington High School, and Amelia Hawkins, a junior at Eastside Preparatory School were the two main city organizers. Bellevue High School senior, Victoria Hsieh, and Eastlake High School junior, Layasri Ranjith, were also lead organizers.
While the four students attend different schools, they came together to raise awareness about climate change. Inspired by the announcement of the global climate strike, the students joined to create a climate strike on the Eastside.
“Our main worries as high school students should not be about climate change,” Barga said. “We should be worried about school, grades, what we’re going to wear to homecoming…but now it’s about our future and if we even have one.”
Hawkins mirrored Barga’s sentiment.
“We live in a world divided,” she said. “But the one thing we absolutely must unite over is climate change. Everyone’s future is at stake and that’s why we’re striking today.”
The students were striking for the following demands:
Enact major legislation to combat climate change on local and state levels in Washington.
Adopt practices to shift the country to 100 percent clean, renewable, and net-zero emission energy sources through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers.
Declare the climate crisis a national emergency — because that’s what it is.
The students spent months planning and organizing the climate strike at Houghton Beach Park. Through the process of obtaining permits from the city, to spreading the word, the students said they were excited as waves of people walked into Houghton Beach Park.
Aside from speeches, the students brought art supplies for people to decorate signs and t-shirts, as well as paper and pens to write letters to local government officials.
“It’s amazing,” Barga said. “It’s what we hoped…what we expected. Climate change is a real crisis and it’s great to see people stand for our futures.”
Eastside residents flooded the park beginning at about 1 p.m. With handmade signs saying, “When the water gets warm you might as well swim — Smash Mouth,” “The climate is changing, why aren’t we?” “The water is rising and so are we,” “Denial is not a policy,” and “We are all interconnected. Save everything,” people gathered to protest against climate change.
Karen Richards and Matt Armstrong, both Kirkland residents, were among the hundreds of protesters.
“We need to save the planet,” Richards said. “This matters. It’s about the future of all of us.”
“We need to move in a direction that we can live on Earth in harmony,” Armstrong said.
Speeches from youth and adult activists kicked off the climate strike. Each student organizer addressed the crowd.
“At 25, I should be just starting my life with a whole future ahead of me,” Barga said. “But I, and the rest of us, won’t have a future if we do nothing about climate change.”
She said typically youth aren’t able to have their voices heard and that often leads to feelings of discouragement and frustration.
“We do belong here. This is our problem. This is our time to act,” she said.
After several speeches, there was an 11-minute silent protest for the 11 years scientists predict the world has left to reverse the worst effects of climate change.
Protesters returned to the sidewalks and held up signs and shouted cheers, “Stand up, fight back!” and “Stop burning fossil fuels.”
To learn more about global climate strikes, visit www.youthclimatestrikeus.org.