The weather was great on Friday at noon in Ann Arbor—sun shining, no rain in sight and the heat warm rather than burning—which made it the perfect time for the hundreds of people participating in the Washtenaw County Climate Strike to come together.
Those crowds of people, carrying brightly colored homemade signs, gathered around a stage set up at Ingalls Mall, on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, as various speakers shared stories and calls to action.
Zaynab Elkolaly, one of the organizers of the Washtenaw County Climate Strike, is only an incoming freshman at University of Michigan, but you wouldn’t know that from her resume. Her titles include Ann Arbor City Commissioner, founder of the Human Rights Youth Coalition and co-founder of the Washtenaw Youth Initiative, among many other roles.
Elkolaly kept the crowd in high spirits as she shouted for them to “Show me what democracy looks like,” receiving a fervent “This is what democracy looks like” each time in response.
“We poured our blood, sweat and tears into this,” she said. “When I co-founded the Washtenaw climate strike, I thought it would be just a few meetings.”
“I’m hoping politicians and corporations see this and know we are not letting them get away with what they’re doing,” she added.
The gathering in Ann Arbor was just one of the climate strikes organized for Sept. 20.
In Michigan alone, strikes were happening in Lansing, Detroit and Kalamazoo as well. Around the Great Lakes, there were numerous strikes organized in places from Ohio to Wisconsin to Ontario. These all followed the strikes happening around the world, including in Japan and Australia, among other countries like Nigeria, the Philippines and Poland.
The Global Climate Strike was planned to precede the United Nations Climate Summit on Sept. 23, with a second global strike on Sept. 27.
Peggy Gouin, from Memphis, Michigan, was part of the gathered crowd in Ann Arbor. She was there with her daughter, granddaughter and grandson.
“We need to do things now to save the planet, and I like being part of a group that’s aware of it,” Gouin said. “We came together, all of us, to stand up and be part of it.”