Climate activist Greta Thunberg joined hundreds of young and old Coloradans as they descended on Civic Center Park on Friday in a rally for the Climate Strike movement.
“We are here because we care about the future, about what we one day will leave after us,” Thunberg said. “And the political leaders can’t seem to think beyond the next election.”
Young climate activists, including indigenous representatives, led the day in presenting their demands for change, chief among them a ban on fracking and new fossil fuel development.
Encircling the stage of the park’s amphitheater, supporters of the movement filled every step, wall, and column. Signs prickled up from the crowd with slogans like “planet over profit” and “keep the oil in the ground.”
Ken Frost, a Ute tribal elder, began the ceremony with a traditional prayer and song. Then indigenous youth activist Tomas Lopez Jr. spoke to the crowd about the importance of marginalized and indigenous voices in the movement because they are often disproportionately affected by climate change.
We must support the other young activists just like Thunberg on the front lines of the fight against climate change, Lopez said.
Other tribal members spoke, danced and stood around the young activists. Their faces bore red and black paint in the shape of handprints over their mouths, a representation of missing and murdered indigenous women. Black and red dresses hung limp behind them, as another reminder.
Haven Coleman, 13, spoke to the crowd, saying she began striking in January, after being inspired by Thunberg and other young activists around the world. In an interview with The Colorado Independent, she said her Friday strikes at the capitol can be difficult because she gets lonely sometimes.
But, as she spoke in front of the crowd gathered around her at the park, Coleman expressed her thanks to all who had gathered in support of the movement with a wide smile and an excited kick for a flourish.
“Sitting there for weeks alone, I’ve dreamt of having my global friends sit with me,” she said. “So this is really fun.”
Thunberg reached out to Coleman through Twitter in April, Coleman said, saying she wanted to come to Denver.
Young people were at the forefront of the day, but much of the frustration was directed at adults. Coleman, as she spoke, asked the older generations with power to do something and not look away as the climate crisis bears down upon the world.
“To the adults in power, you have the chance to do the right thing, but you won’t,” Coleman said.
As Thunberg made her closing speech, she echoed Coleman’s frustration. It should not be up to us to take responsibility, Thunberg said, the older generations and political leaders are failing us. But we have to take responsibility now, and no one is too small to make a difference, she said.
“The world is waking up, and we are the change. And change is coming whether you like it or not,” she said.
The next Global Climate Strike will be on November 29, according to Thunberg. But many like Coleman strike every Friday.