Editor's note: This article was updated April 3 for accuracy.
On March 25, dozens joined the global climate strike in downtown Raleigh to protest for climate justice and hold local leaders and businesses accountable.
The strike was organized by various local groups including Climate Action North Carolina, a local project by the League of Conservation Voters; the NC Sierra Club; the Raleigh chapter of Food Not Bombs; the Raleigh Democratic Socialists of America; and the North Carolina Green Party.
“For more than 40 years, oil and gas industries knew that the climate crisis has been an impending reality,” said strike organizer and city council candidate Mary Black.
Black said the companies knew the consequences of climate change.
“And what did they do?” Black said. “Spend the majority of those 40 years not only denying their role in the climate crisis, but the existence of climate change at all.”
The overarching theme of the protest, along with sister protests worldwide, was “People Not Profit,” highlighting corporate and government negligence of climate change and how it affects low-income and minority communities.
One of the organization’s demands was seen on a poster calling for the end of Duke Energy’s monopoly in North Carolina and to “Allow for third party energy companies to provide for consumers,” according to a flier listing its demands.
Along with ending the monopoly, the organization called for: a high priority in alleviating environmental racism, stopping rate hikes from Duke Energy, ensuring affordable housing especially along public transit corridors, increasing restrictions of biomass fuel processing, and increasing protection for tree canopies, nature preserves and watershed areas.
These demands are what prompted protesters to enter the state General Assembly to hand out fliers to legislative offices hoping to speak to leaders and staff. Hwa Huang, a graduate student in marine, earth and atmospheric sciences, helped organize the strike and spoke to demonstrators.
“Let them know you have demands and you can’t wait for them anymore,” Huang said. “Find out who is going to listen, find out who is actually going to do something about it. … And if they don’t, vote them out.”
One group, led by Black, was invited to the office of a senator’s legislative assistant to speak about the lack of affordable housing in the city. According to Black, they were met with rare agreement.
But this was only one part of the protest, as demonstrators walked to buildings symbolizing the intersecting aspects of climate justice. One stop was the Wake County Justice Center.
Here, artist and community volunteer Shai X read a self-written poem about prison labor and systemic racism and spoke about his own experiences with law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
“You have no say on the community you’re coming back to,” said Shai X on the lack of voting rights for those convicted of felonies. “The right to vote is synonymous with equality. It’s standing equal with your community.”
The topic of voting rights was also brought up when discussing how new developments force minority, typically Black, communities out and replace them with white residents, thus weakening minority voting power.
According to Black, the intersectional aspect of this strike comes from “the fact that we live intersectional lives and intersectional identities.”
“We have to understand that climate justice without racial justice, without housing justice, without women’s rights, isn’t climate justice,” Black said.
With the rise of the progressive political candidates in Raleigh and young people in politics, Black said she hopes the government soon heeds what protesters are saying in regards to building a future for everyone.
“They are creating a reality for wealthy people and people who are not coming from communities of color and not coming from certain economic backgrounds and leaving us out of the conversation,” Black said. “Leaving us out of that future isn’t working for anyone.”