TAMPA, Fla. — Student activists calling on governments for changes to climate policy held "Climate Strikes" in both St. Petersburg and Tampa Friday, timed in conjunction with similar rallies in cities around the world.
- Activists demanding "transformative action" on climate crisis
- NextGen Florida registering voters for 2020 election at climate strike
- Rallies timed just days before United Nations Climate Summit
- More Hillsborough County stories
Earlier Friday, student activists rallied and marched in St. Petersburg, gathering in front of the city's original City Hall.
"I'm out here because I care about our oceans and not enough people do," said protester Sabean Pn, a student at Eckerd College. "We live in Florida — we should care."
The St. Pete event, hosted by the Florida Suncoast Sierra Club in conjunction with Tampa Bay Watch, League of Women Voters of St. Petersburg, and more than 20 other organizations, aimed at sending a message of solidarity to students all over the world calling for climate action.
"We think this is the most critical issue that's affecting our state and our world. And so that's why I'm here," said Lindsay Cross with Florida Conservation Voters. "Because we need to have clean energy solutions now."
The event is reportedly one of 800 occurring across all 50 U.S. states as well as Puerto Rico and Guam. The goal, organizers said, was to "demand transformative action be taken to address the climate crisis."
"If [politicians] won't do anything about it, we have to come out here and make them change ourselves," said protester and high school student Faith Cooper.
Former president Barack Obama hailed the efforts of participants in the climate strike around the world on Twitter:
Closer to home, St. Petersburg city leaders expressed pride that the city was part of a worldwide march, but wished the protesters wouldn't block downtown streets.
City Council member Darden Rice downplayed the concern about downtown traffic effects, however, and called the turnout for the rally "incredible."
"I wish they weren't blocking traffic but they're still being orderly," Rice said. "We'll encourage them to peacefully move along."
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman expressed gratitude and support for the climate strikes on Twitter, as well.
Nathan Barnitz, a protester who took part in the Tampa rally Friday evening, expressed frustration with the seeming lack of action by world leaders on the climate crisis.
"The world is a mess right now," Barnitz said. "There's so many problems that need to be fixed and no one is here trying to fix them."
NextGen Florida is trying to mobilize voters with progressive views in order to support candidates who will say they will step up for change. They were among the sponsors of the St. Pete rally and hosted the rally in Tampa Friday evening, registering participants to vote in the 2020 elections.
The nationwide rallies come just days before the scheduled United Nations Climate Summit and New York Climate Week.