Hawkesbury residents rally and represent at Climate Action Strike

A young woman with dark blonde shoulder-length hair raises an arm in the air to cheer with her friend as they stand in the crowd of today's climate action rally at Sydney's Town Hall.

A caravan of young people from three Hawkesbury schools gradually joined the ten o'clock train from Richmond station this morning, travelling to Sydney's Town Hall to participate in the worldwide climate action strike. The group was accompanied by Councillor Danielle Wheeler, Deputy Mayor Mary Lyons-Buckett, Tania Ritchie, Suze Pratten and Rozzie Chia.

Colo High captain William Potter has been an active voice in local environmental matters, first flagging environmental concerns in Diverse Hawkesbury's 2017 youth forum (see Related Posts, right). Today he led the Hawkesbury chapter of youth activists in the rally at Town Hall and then a city-stopping march upon Hyde Park. Attendees were overwhelmingly high school students, but many preschool and primary-aged children were also in attendance. Other supporters included unions, the Greens, parents and other relatives, and seniors. Federal Member for Macquarie, Susan Templeman (ALP) stated her support on social media.

Safety at the event was managed by stewards placed strategically through the crowd, but while passions ran high during the rally and march, a strong sense of goodwill and mutual respect ruled the masses.

"A lot of people couldn't come today, because a lot of parents are not in support, or don't think the event is safe. There are also a lot of people supporting us who just aren't able to make it for one reason or another. There are also other people waiting in the city for us. There are a lot of adults here with us in solidarity. We have about 35-40 kids here, which is awesome," William said.

Criticism of the movement from conservative politicans, pundits and members of the community have included arguments that "left-wing activists" are somehow using children and teens to further a political agenda, and William responds with a chuckle and a shake of the head when asked his thoughts in response to those comments:

"I think it's really important that we approach this together, as a community. We are a completely independent student organisation. We haven't been influenced by teachers to do this, nor have we been dissuaded from taking action by teachers. Teachers are actually really restricted in what they're allowed to do. It's been a lot of hard work and a lot of effort to get organised and get everyone here."

Charlotte Warton, 15, attended with the group and said her focus was to engage early in life in order to arm herself with knowledge:

"I want to educate myself as much as I can on this, and not really rely on our government, who aren't doing much about any of it right now. Together, with all the people here today, we're going to be able to do something about it later."

Charlotte agrees that comments about young people giving up cars, electricity and technology miss the point, and speaks of the highly unifying nature of the message young people have for us.

"I don't necessarily hang out with a lot of the people here today, but we're uniting on this issue. We all have our own opinions on it, too. I hope that we can make a big enough noise today to not only impact on government decisions, but on the wider discussion, all around Australia."

School Strike 4 Climate organisers have estimated today's Sydney attendance in excess of 30,000. Protests continue across the world, as the sun rises on Friday March 15 in other countries. Images from India, Tokyo, Vanuatu and South Korea are becoming available via the Guardian's live feed, and impressive turnouts are expected across the United States overnight.

William is planning a local demonstration for next year's climate action strike, and says that it may make it easier for local kids to participate.

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