Richmonders, VCU students gather at Monroe Park to join worldwide climate strike

Protesters marched in Richmond as part of a worldwide strike against climate change. Photo by Liza Hazelwood

Katharine DeRosa, Contributing Writer

Three sisters sit in Monroe Park before marching in Saturday’s climate strike. Photo by Liza Hazelwood

Three sisters lounged in the grass among a frenzy of protesters in Monroe Park on Friday evening. They sat in a semicircle holding their homemade signs as children ran around them.

The trio, Lily, Selan and Juliette Miller, are part of a family of eight from Richmond. Juliette’s sign played off Hilary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, with a picture of Earth drawn with the caption, “I’m with her.” Selan’s poster read, “Wake up and smell the pollution,” and Lily’s poster read, “Respect your mother.”

Following the rally at Monroe Park, protestors — including VCU students and Richmond residents — marched along Broad Street toward City Hall as part of the Richmond Climate strike, one of many global protests urging action on climate change. Young children carried signs with the help of their parents, and students held posters high as they chanted, “This is what democracy looks like.”

The protests were inspired by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, whose words on climate change inspired those in cities such as New York, Melbourne, London, Manila and Rio de Janeiro.

Kevin Hine of Midlothian, a VCU biology graduate, cited Thunberg as his reason for attending the march.

“Greta’s a big inspiration,” Hine said. “This needs to happen. It’s either now, or even worse consequences come later.”

Climate Strike
Many protesters held handmade signs for the climate strike on Saturday. Photo by Jon Mirador
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Raquel Hetherington, a VCUarts freshman from Dripping Springs, Texas, saw the march as an opportunity to be a part of something bigger.

“I come from a conservative background in a small town, and everyone there is kind of complacent with living the way they are,” Hetherington said. “I came all the way out here for change, and the way to do it is one step at a time.”

Richmond native David Lee came to the protest with his wife and two young children to encourage action on climate change and the reduction of fossil fuel usage.

“I wanted my kids to see what a movement like this looks like and for them to understand the importance of it,” he said as his children ran toward their mom, who explained why the park was so crowded.

Nathan Hill, a freshman majoring in kinesiology, was standing at the top of the police station in Monroe Park with his skateboard and a few other friends, looking down upon the crowd.

“I’m just a big supporter of saving our planet and using clean energy,” Hine said. “[The protest] just makes me feel good, like we’re trying to get something done.”

Hetherington marched with friend and fellow freshman art major, Mortimer Cameron.

“We don’t have much time,” Cameron said.“I thought it would be important for me to get out and join something.”

Before the march to City Hall began, protesters listened to a speech from Nicholas Da Silva, a political science graduate and community organizer running for the 5th District city council seat.

5th District City Council candidate Nicholas Da Silva spoke to the crowd in Monroe Park before the march. Photo by Jon Mirador

“Protesting is our JV sport at VCU,” Da Silva said during the protest.

As protesters walked down Broad Street — which marchers dubbed “our street” in chants — traffic was forced to notice. Some drivers honked briefly while pumping their fists, while other drivers added long, sustained honks as they waited behind other cars.

The march was briefly interrupted by a fire truck; protesters quickly moved onto the sidewalks before clapping for the firefighters as they drove by.

Once at City Hall, the protesters quieted down to listen to speeches and finished the protest with a lie-in — in which they laid on the ground in silence. Lie-ins are meant to simulate death and have been used in other protests, such as the student protest against gun violence at the White House in February 2018.

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