Stuyvesant Students Organize Fridays for Future Climate Strike

Students from across the city marched for climate change legislation in Fridays For Future (FFF)’s global strike on Friday, March 25.

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Under the slogan #peopleoverprofit, Stuyvesant students marched in Fridays for Future New York City’s (FFFNYC) international climate walkout to demand climate change reform on March 25. Participants from Stuyvesant convened at both Borough Hall in Brooklyn to start the climate march and at Foley Square, where it ended. The strike gained citywide traction as protestors marched and chanted across the Brooklyn Bridge before congregating at City Hall.

Speakers hosted include 2020 Youth Poet Laureate and Stuyvesant alumna (‘21) Meera Dasgupta; representatives from various local organizations, such as community opposition group “No North Brooklyn Pipeline,” the Sixth Street Community Center, and youth climate justice coalition TREEage; and S.L Franjola, the winner of a FFFNYC writing contest.

The climate strike was organized by the New York City branch of Fridays for Future (FFF), in cooperation with the international Fridays for Future group and other youth-led organizations. Junior and FFFNYC co-director Anna Kathawala and freshman Helen Mancini collaborated to bring the strike to Stuyvesant. Through posting flyers around the school building and spreading word on social media, Kathawala and Mancini generated greater awareness for the strike among the Stuyvesant community. “Stuy[vesant students] play such a leadership role among other schools in the city, so a big Stuy[vesant] presence at the strike means a lot,” Kathawala said in an e-mail interview.

Another purpose of the strike was to advocate for the passage of specific legislation on a local, state, and national level. “We want one, for the construction of the North Brooklyn pipeline, a highly hazardous and environmentally racist natural gas pipeline, to be stopped; two, for the NY State Senate to pass the Climate Can't Wait bill package in this legislative session; and three, for the US Senate to pass the Green New Deal for Public Schools Act in this legislative session,” Kathawala said.

The slogan of the strike, #peopleoverprofit, asked that the wellbeing of people be valued over profits of countries, corporations, and the wealthy. “I’m very tired of people being constantly displaced in the name of making a couple extra bucks, in the name of getting what you want,” junior Daria Minhas said. “By advocating for climate justice, we are putting more power in the hands of the people and [taking power] away from the major corporations that run society.”

Though this strike was under the umbrella of FFF, the New York strike was organized independently from the larger organization. FFFNYC organizers coordinated local logistics and ensured local efforts aligned with national and international demands. “The international Fridays for Future decides on the strike date and sends it out, and Fridays for Future [branches] in each state or province area organize their own strike,” Mancini said.

Strike attendees echoed the urgency expressed by the organizers of the strike. Notably, many attendees of this strike attended Climate Strike NYC, a similar NYC youth-led strike from 2019, and felt that the continuity of the youth-climate movement reflects the lack of government action. “I went to [the September 2019] strike and I really felt passionate about it,” junior Brigid Allen said. “Most people have no idea of the scale or urgency. I really wanted to take action, because I felt there was nothing I was doing.”

FFFNYC strike organizers invited fellow climate organizations, emphasizing that these groups’ shared vision of change ultimately inspired them to mobilize alongside one another. Among these groups is the Extinction Rebellion, a similar international climate movement defined by its emphasis on civil disobedience. “Extinction Rebellion is focused on [using] non-violent civil disobedience to solve the climate crisis by taking over the cities, lying out in the middle of the streets, sending a message, and shutting things down,” Mancini said.

Though the two strikes are similar, the FFFNYC strike was unpermitted, unlike the 2019 Youth Climate Strikes. Organizers expressed that the unpermitted nature of the strike allowed for a greater sense of solidarity. “In this case, we are not using a stage, we are striking on public property, which is completely within our rights, in order to make a statement and [make] demand things from the government,” Mancini said. “A lot of other protesting groups don’t believe in permitted actions because they feel you are not protesting against something if you are filing for the right to protest.”

The scope of the strike, especially because the demonstration was unpermitted, required extensive hands-on involvement from student organizers, including collecting necessary items like megaphones and establishing communication with the NYPD. “We had to organize press [coverage], decide on the type of strike, [...] and look into getting legal support marshals who [...] maintain the groups of people in the strike,” Mancini said.

Organizers also reached out to the Department of Education, as well as Stuyvesant administration, to request that absences for the strike be excused in order to encourage student participation. Though the requests were ultimately denied, administration ensured that students could exit the building in an orderly fashion.

Many attendees felt inspired by the sheer number of people who participated in the strike. “Once I got [to Foley Square] I stood on this raised platform and I looked back and there were people pouring over the [Brooklyn] Bridge, I’m thinking where did everyone come from? It was just so great to see how many people showed up for the climate,” Hunter College High School sophomore and strike organizer Mars Vazquez-Plyshevsky said.

However, organizers expressed the participation of Stuyvesant students was lower than anticipated “I was kind of disappointed by the Stuyvesant turnout,” Allen said. “From schools like Bronx Science there were upwards of 300, 400 [students] there. We had like 25.”

Furthermore, though the strike garnered a significant number of participants, juniors Lea Esipov and Minhas noticed a lack of enthusiasm from the majority of protestors. “[In] the strike itself, there were tons of people, which was super great. The very front of [the group] was all of the group organizers so it was super loud and they had all the press. And then everything behind it was just pretty dead.” Esipov said. “Me and my friends were running back and forth with megaphones in people’s faces trying to get them to scream.”

For those interested in educating themselves on climate change, Kathawala recommends joining climate-focused organizations in addition to conducting independent research. “Finding issues that you're interested in outside of climate change, like fashion, politics, architecture, or engineering, and researching how the climate crisis impacts those fields is a great way to become more educated. The climate crisis is so intersectional, which is one of the scariest things about it, so there are resources about it in all fields,” she said.

Moving forward, Mancini hopes to see further action against the climate crisis taken by the Stuyvesant community. “I personally [have] noticed a lack of focus on the environment among Stuyvesant students who are focused on academic success and their own personal futures and not what is happening right now. We need to change this mindset because we are running out of time.”