Millennial activists protest for 'justice on race, climate change and immigration'

With the 2016 presidential election just one year away, millennial activists representing a broad swath of movements congregated at Franklin Square in Washington, DC the morning of Monday to speak out about issues they feel politicians should be paying more attention to.

The movement, “Our Generation Our Choice: Mobilization for Justice on Race, Climate Change, and Immigration,” aims to unite social justice movements under the umbrella of “justice” in order to “make candidates’ agendas work for our movements, and for our future.”

The march began at Franklin Square and protesters marched five blocks to the White House as workers poured into downtown Washington to get to their jobs. Eyewitness reports claim that the crowd grew from about 300 at the rally to over 1,000 at the march.

An organizer of the rally and a sustainability coordinator from the University of Massachusetts, Varshini Prakash told Campus Reform “as a collective, we as youth, are in crisis.”

Prakash explained that the youth in the United States face an incredible amount of uncertainty and stress in their daily lives that comes from “police brutality, deportations, witnessing families and communities being torn apart, and climate change exacerbates all of those things.”

As was the sentiment of many of the protesters, Prakesh told Campus Reform the group, as a whole, believes climate change and forced migration and immigration are “inextricably linked.”

“When we fight for climate justice what we fight for is to keep families together and to stop the forced migration of people based off of lack of food or lack of water or anything like that,” Prakash explained. “We want [politicians] to stop deporting families, to stop destroying families. We want them to start taking action on climate change, that means stop leasing public lands to fossil fuels corporations.”

Rally speaker Devontae Torriente, a student at American University, described the rally and march as an attempt to unite people who “may seem at times [to be] fighting separate battles, [but] are all intertwined...We are so much stronger together than we could ever be apart, and it's time to take a stand as a collective unit and mobilize for the future we all deserve.”

Torriente also addressed the scope of the event, “The fight for justice involves each and every one of us, from divesting from fossil fuels to reinvesting into communities of color so that we can all succeed. Our issues are interconnected and it's time to unite.”

While some protesters joined the march because of a particular issue, others attempted to craft messages uniting the rally’s issues, including one sign that claimed that “Syrian refugees are climate refugees.”


Climate change in particular brought many to the protest. Representatives from the “One Mind Youth Movement” advocacy group at the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe spoke about their experience in the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline. Prompting cheers from the crowd, they especially thanked the climate activists present and President Obama, who rejected the pipeline on Nov. 6.

“That pipeline was planned to go right through our lands, less than 40 miles from our homes, and that would have destroyed everything,” said Trenton Casillas-Blakeburg, “And in order to make sure that we can keep living on this planet we have to make sure that we keep over 80 percent of the fossil fuels in the ground to keep the rising global temps below 2 degrees Celsius.”

“We must cut back on current drilling and mining projects while also canceling any future projects” and support a transition from fossil fuels toward renewable energy.

Racial justice and immigration also featured heavily, with chants breaking out during the rally, “No justice, no peace, no racist police.”

Torriente argued that “we need to repurpose a significant amount of the law enforcement funds organizations [sic] like Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and many police departments in order to support community-based solutions and alternatives to incarceration.”

“We also need to develop and implement a national plan of action for racial justice that includes not only criminal justice but employment, housing, healthcare, and so many facets that are permanent solutions to the state of emergency we are in.”

The speakers offered few specifics but drew cheers from the crowd as they expressed the need for unified activism. In the words of one speaker, “Instead of looking left or right, our millennial movements are looking forward.”

Follow the authors of this article on Twitter: @SummerRatcliff and @JMietus