Banners waved in the morning breeze as Climate Strike protesters filled McPherson Square Park at 7:00 a.m. Friday.
More than 300 people prepared to march from the small park, with those on megaphones leading chants as a couple of homeless people were lying on park benches. The voices of the protesters echoed off the solid walls of the Department of Commerce as they were led down Constitution Avenue toward the rising sun.
The protesters marched from intersection to intersection, blocking traffic for a half-hour or less at a time before they moved to their next stop.
“This is a personal fight for my future,” one speaker insisted. The crowd gave him a rousing cheer.
Many attendees came from climate change activist groups such as 350 DC, Extinction Rebellion, and Rising Tide. Black Lives Matter members also participated, as did other protesters who didn’t belong to any group.
Along the route, the marchers shouted out warnings that painted an apocalyptic vision of the future: New York City will vanish under rising seas. Coasts will vanish.
“The ice of the Arctic will flood our streets and markets,” they said. “No justice, no peace. The earth’s on fire. Put the fire out!”
Protesters came from the Washington, D.C., area and around the nation, filled with passion for the strike.
“I love it,” said Mindy Taylor, 55. “I’m here from Seattle to lend my support. We’ll protest anything in Seattle, but I wanted to take it here,” she said.
Taylor said she hopes the protests will “make it uncomfortable enough so maybe [politicians will] start listening.”
One woman, wearing a neon vest and holding a sign reading “The Wrong I.C.E. Is Melting,” spoke in favor of her own silence. “I would prefer if you found a person of color to talk to, preferably a female person of color,” she told a reporter. “We need to lift their voices up. That’s all you’re getting.”
A young Hispanic woman led the crowd in chanting slogans. She declined to give her name, but said she came to protest “the crisis, the climate crisis.”
“It’s something that’s affecting everybody on this earth,” she said, adding, however, that the crisis was “difficult to see in my own life.”
“Just because it’s not affecting you doesn’t mean it’s not going to affect you at some time,” she said.
Giovanni Tamacas, 20, of California, who joined the Extinction Rebellion group a year ago, explained the protesters’ sense of urgency.
“Our society’s going to collapse. This is going to happen in the next 10 to 15 years,” he said, adding that to prevent such a collapse, Americans must take drastic action.
“We need zero carbon emissions by 2025,” he said.
The five-year transition of the American economy from gasoline to green will be pushed along by a new branch of government called a “citizens’ assembly,” he said.
The assembly will consist of “a hundred to a thousand randomly selected citizens” who will combat climate change.
If that random sample should select people who are racist, what they call “climate deniers,” or are difficult to govern with, “you would have no-confidence votes,” Tamacas said. “You would have the people decide in the citizens’ assemblies if people are incompetent or unfit for the office.”
The margin for a no-confidence vote would be “up to the people to decide,” he said.
Another Extinction Rebellion leader, Northern Virginia resident Nick Brana, 30, said, “There’s a lot of different ways to organize this sortition project, and it would have to be figured out.”
But Ronan Reilly, 20, from Centreville, Virginia, took issue with the demonstrators.
“They’re all just hopping on the train to be a part of something and causing a public spectacle,” she said. “There are things we can do to better the situation, but I think this is pointless. [Citizens’ assemblies] are kind of like anarchy, but with extra steps.”