Hundreds gathered in downtown Tampa Saturday morning to protest the Trump administration’s stance on climate change.
A similar scene was duplicated in twenty other cities around Florida, with hundreds more across the nation.
“We know that climate change is happening. That’s why we’re here today,” said Dana Lazarus, the climate change organizer for Organize Now, as she kicked off the event at Lykes Gaslight Park. “And we cannot let climate change deniers keep us from saving our planet and our city, right? Because we know this is happening. We must stop debating about climate change, and start taking real action now.”
Part of that action at Saturday’s event was to urge Tampa lawmakers to commit to a 100 percent clean, renewable energy portfolio, something that officials in St. Petersburg agreed to last year, as have 25 other American cities between now and 2050.
The rallies come as the media and the world take note of the symbolically significant first 100 days of the Trump administration. On Friday, the President signed an executive order that could lead to the expansion of drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, saying it will reverse President Obama‘s Arctic leasing ban and create “great jobs and great wealth” for the country. The order also directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to conduct a review of the locations available for offshore drilling under a five-year plan signed by Obama in November.
The day of climate change protests come a day after the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was beginning an overhaul of its website, which included taking down a long-standing site devoted to the science of climate change, which the agency said was “under review,” according to The Washington Post.
“The stark situation is that Donald Trump and his cabal of anti-climate, greedy, corporate oil and coal interests, have taken over the White House, and they are trying to lead us in the direction away from addressing climate change,” said Frank Jackalone, the Florida Director of the Sierra Club.
Looking out at the crowd, Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp said it was critical that the public continued to show up, whether it was at rallies like this or important meetings regarding the environment taking place with the Board of County Commissioners.
She hailed the county’s hiring for the first time ever of a sustainability director and a full-time staff member looking at trails and pedestrian walkways to make Hillsborough a more active transportation county. And she promised much more transit. “I guarantee you,” she assured the audience.
“Our mother is sick, she’s in the ER, ” said Russell Meyer, the executive director of the Florida Council of Churches, employing a metaphor about Mother Earth. “Everybody should be concerned about our mother being sick and stop denying it. We need to tend to our mother,” he added.
The rally featured over two dozen groups, including Organize Florida, Environment Florida and the Sierra Club. After the speeches had ended, attendees marched to MacDill Park, where they could observe local art installations and climate science exhibits.