Vancouver climate strike turnout exceeds expectations, police say 100K attended
Organizers of the Vancouver Climate Strike hoped 15,000 people would show up, but the crowd that marched from city hall into downtown was many times larger than that. Vancouver Police Department Chief Adam Palmer tweeted that roughly 100,000 had attended.
"It's really powerful because this is a youth-organized strike and this time is special because we're inviting adults and other people to join us in our movement,” said co-organizer Samantha Lin.
Hundreds of thousands of young people across the country skipped school and took time off work Friday to make their voices heard on what they call the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced.
They were joined by seniors and young families, but teens – most not even old enough to vote – led the way.
"I think it's really important because it's happening right now so we all need to take action in this moment to make a better world for the future,” said a UBC student named Emma.
Police shut down all lanes of the Cambie Bridge and the sea of people surging across it also brought downtown traffic to a standstill.
"I love these guys because I love what they are saying!” said driver Salar Hatami, who had been stuck at the intersection of Nelson and Smythe for more than an hour when he spoke to CTV News Vancouver.
The teens and young adults want politicians of all stripes, at all levels of government, to make climate change their number one priority, even if it disrupts big business.
"I came here because I think it's wrong that companies and corporations should be able to destroy the world just so they can squeeze out a few extra dollars,” said James, a 15-year-old who attends Lord Byng Secondary.
Organizers say it’s time to change the narrative around how to handle the issue. They’d like to stop talking about what individuals and families can do and focus on the changes government and big business can make.
"These individual actions, while necessary, are not going to create the sort of wide-scale, systemic change that we need in order to tackle the biggest challenge that humanity has ever faced,” said co-organizer Rebecca Hamilton.
Once downtown, the rally continued at the intersection of West Georgia and Hamilton Streets until police finally moved the remaining protestors to the sidewalk at 5 p.m. so rush-hour traffic could resume.
Many of the young people at the rally and march told CTV News Vancouver their activism will not end until concrete actions are taken.
Those that are old enough plan to vote in next month’s federal election with climate change as the key issue.
And those that are not old enough to cast a ballot also have a message for politicians: they soon will be.