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Credit: Courtesy of Garett Nelson

When 310,000 people marched on Sunday to pressure global leaders attending the United Nations summit on climate change to dramatically lower carbon emissions, a contingent of Penn students took to the streets of New York to stand in solidarity with the protesters.

Ninety Penn students participated in the People’s Climate March on Sunday organized by, an international environmental organization. The People’s Climate March is now said to be the largest mobilization of people against climate change in history.

College sophomore Peter Thacher and Engineering sophomore Thomas Lee independently organized the group from Penn, with funding assistance from the Penn Environmental Group and the Student Sustainability Association. Thacher had previously worked with, and began organizing the Penn group for the march after the organization asked him to be the Penn campus lead.

Thirty Penn students left for New York on Saturday to participate in the Youth Convergence for Climate Justice, a conference on what young people can do about the climate crisis, how it relates to problems of poverty, inequality and racism and how to start and run campaigns for climate change.

Photo Courtesy of Thomas Lee“The most important thing I learned from the conference was that a movement of people can be pretty small, but if they have an active support base, they can win the cause they are fighting for no matter what,” Thacher said.

On Sunday, 90 Penn students gathered and lined up around Central Park at 10 a.m. as part of the group of 310,000 protesters. About 500 Columbia students, 100 Yale students and 100 Swarthmore students lined up alongside the Penn group. The crowd of protesters began marching around noon, and finished around 3:30 p.m. in midtown Manhattan.

“People were energized and emotionally attached to what was going on. At 12:58 [p.m.], there was a moment of silence for those already being affected by climate crises. People raised their hands to signal that the moment of silence had begun, and it was incredibly powerful,” Thacher said.

During the two-mile route, protesters chanted, “The people united will never be defeated” and “What do want? Climate Justice! When do we want it? Now!”

“For many of the Penn students who came today, this was their first protest, so I think this march provided important education about democracy and reclaiming the power of their first amendment rights,” Lee said.

For College junior Cassandra Vickers, the protest represented the realization of people acting on what they believe.

“I never imagined my generation could mobilize in such a way,” Vickers said. “I feel that the internet and the ‘like’ button on Facebook gives us a false sense of involvement, but this weekend I got to see a movement come alive.”

Photo Courtesy of Thomas Lee

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