Stuyvesant Students Attend Foley Square Climate Strike
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Stuyvesant students marched to Foley Square with Fridays for Future New York City (FFFNYC) on March 3 in order to address the climate crisis. The protest began in Foley Square, preceding a march across the Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn Borough Hall, which hosted a variety of speakers from around the world, including Kyra Blas, a Yale law student discussing the United States advisory opinion on Climate Change, and Hillary Taylor, a Ugandan activist discussing the detrimental effects of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline. Fifteen Stuyvesant students attended the strike out of approximately 800 attendees city-wide.
The key theme of this protest was ending fossil fuel finance: the continued funding of the fossil fuel industry by many banks. Protesters demanded two changes—for the state legislature of New York to pass the Climate, Jobs, and Justice Package and for the United States to vote in favor of a United Nations general assembly request for an Advisory Opinion on Climate Justice from the International Court of Justice. The former aims to build more renewable infrastructure, implement taxes on the biggest polluters, and promote jobs in the sustainability and green energy sector. The latter would influence United States allies to vote in favor of the resolution and internationally establish the climate crisis as a human rights issue.
While organizers only had two official goals for the protest, another crucial reason many Stuyvesant students attended the strike was to protest the ecocide in Ukraine. “I’m currently here to protest the ecocide in Ukraine, which currently affects [Ukraine’s] land through deforestation, tons of pollution, and infrastructure destruction,” sophomore and Ukrainian Culture Club co-president Nina Skiba said. “I’m also here to support environmental causes across New York, such as the defunding of fossil fuels.”
Though this strike garnered mass turnout among all of New York City, it attracted much less than in previous years—only 15 Stuyvesant students—in contrast to a protest held by Fridays For Future on September 20, 2019, which consisted of more than 315,000 students, with over 500 Stuyvesant students participating. Despite the disappointing turnout, student participants were still enthused by the attention the event did bring. “I like the fact that people are rising up to protest this and bring awareness to this,” sophomore Koi Zavialova said. “[It’s important] to bring awareness to the fact of our climate [crisis].”
One reason for this low turnout was stricter attendance policies from the Stuyvesant administration and Department of Education (DOE), as opposed to previous years when the DOE has excused absences for the climate strike as long as there was a parental note. “Despite having got[ten] permission from all my relevant teachers, [attending the protest] would still technically be class cutting,” sophomore Leo Schneiderman said.
Another reason for the low turnout was the timing coinciding with SING!, due to a new school policy preventing students from participating in SING! if they left the building, which includes the unexcused absences from climate strikes. “I was planning on going [to the strike] until my crew's directors texted us the day of telling us we can't go because it would blacklist us from SING!,” Schneiderman said.
Despite the great challenges and sparse turnout, many found the protest an excellent learning opportunity, with compelling speeches given by the five unique speakers. “I wanted to be part of this. I wanted to help this community,” Kingsborough Early College Secondary School senior Joshua Brooke said.
Ultimately, this climate change protest was a productive demonstration from schools around the city, regardless of the turnout from Stuyvesant. It enabled attendees to express their thoughts and establish a clear opinion on the climate crisis. “I think [climate change] is an existential threat to the continued existence of civilization, if not the entire human race,” Schneiderman said.