Hundreds congregated in front of Rochester City Hall last Friday to urge the city to do its part in combating climate change.
The Sept. 27 Rochester Climate Strike, organized in part by the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition, printed a letter on a large poster board entreating Mayor Lovely Warren to ban the installment of natural gas stoves and appliances in new houses.
“Climate change is both a threat and an opportunity,” said one speaker in front of City Hall. “We want to sincerely thank Mayor Warren,” she continued. “But unfortunately, it’s not enough.”
As the crowd filled the street, there was a sense of pent-up energy. A tall blonde woman balancing a sign on her sunglasses that read “Fuck Trump” cheered “yes, yes, yes!” as the crowd began to move.
In under two hours, the protestors visited the Gordon A. House Monroe County Office Building, Rochester Gas and Electric, and the Kenneth B. Keating Federal Building.
At each location, the protestors had a different demand — first for a countywide action plan, then a call for Governor Andrew Cuomo to stop supporting natural gas, and finally, a treatise to Senators Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, and House Representative Joe Morelle to pass a federal carbon tax before the 2020 election.
Shielding their eyes against the sun, the five-hundred-strong mass journeyed up and down East Main. Bus passengers pressed up against the windows to stare. Some passersby scowled or ignored the crowd. Others clapped, and drivers honked in appreciation, feeding the energy of the crowd.
Kaylee Megola, a first-year from St. John Fisher College, wanted “to be part of history in the making.” Megola became a vegetarian after she learned of the impact of animal agriculture on the environment.
The attendees represented all generations, from octogenarians to high schoolers with scores of chants (“Can’t drink money / can’t breathe oil!”) and even toddlers, closely trailed by guardians with strollers.
Ginger Henreichs marched with a group of older women called the Raging Grannies. She wore a colorful dress and a hat with pins, including one bearing the words “Outrageous Older Woman.” “[My husband and I] have grandchildren,” she said, “and I can’t imagine what they’re feeling.”
“We’re at the point that we need to take solid, concrete, immediate actions, and instead, we’re forming committees,” Alex White, a City Council candidate with the Green Party, said. “We are spiraling to our death because the politicians are all for talking about resolutions, and not for taking any of the real, structural changes that are going to be necessary to confront this problem.”
His criticism of inaction extended to academic institutions. Referring to UR and its two billion dollar endowment, he said, “It would cost a couple ten or so million to [implement sustainable energy sources]. They don’t care. And I want to say that it is time for every institution to start taking an interest in what they can do.”
A young girl trotted along with a sign adorned with many colorful prehistoric creatures that read, “I’m sure the dinosaurs thought they had time too.”
John Montgomery stood out from the crowd with a several foot tall sign reading “The Elite Have Bunkers” on one side and “How Dare You” on the other. He participated in the march with his grandchildren, hoping that the protest would inspire more people to join the climate movement.
He walked up to the window of a bus that was stopped at a red light next to the march. “Is this a climate friendly bus?” he asked the driver. When he returned, he reported that the driver said nothing and only “looked at me real mean.”
Sheila Schuh said she was brought here by faith. A religious educator from the Unitarian Universalist church — Susan B. Anthony was a member — Schuh teaches non-violence and affirming diversity to children under 18. Her sign, reading “Side with Love,” was held by a tall, multi-colored puppet hoisted on a stick.
She has hope, she said, in collective power.
“I don’t have hope in some higher power coming down to save us,” she said. “I believe it’s you and I, coming to this march and showing up.”