ARTIST: David Lomeli; TITLE: Untitled

A handful of youth groups took their concerns about the environment across the bay recently, when they rallied in San Francisco to protest a coal terminal planned in West Oakland.

The middle and high school students with Youth Vs Apocalypse, Warriors for Justice and West Oakland Legacy and Leadership at Attitudinal Healing Connection gathered at the One Market Plaza office of Bank of Montreal to ask that it pull its finances from the project.

“It’s because of how the Bank of Montreal is funding Phil Tagami’s coal terminal in West Oakland,” said 11-year-old Christopher Soriano of Warriors for Justice. “I just want to fight for the people of West Oakland.”

The kids rode to the San Francisco rally on BART after school, chanting and singing along the way in order to let riders know their objections to the coal terminal project.

Once in front of the bank, they hoisted large paintings of themselves as super heroes and drew chalk outlines of themselves on the sidewalk.

“If that coal terminal gets built in West Oakland, that means that more people are at risk for getting an asthma attack,” Soriano said.

The city of Oakland has also been fighting the project, which could bring up to 5 million metric tons of coal per year through a planned maritime terminal with a rail connection at the former Oakland Army Base.

In 2016, the City Council banned the storage and handling of coal but project developers successfully sued the city in federal court.

The city has appealed the judge’s ruling in that case, which is still ongoing.

The Oakland students want people to know they are aware of what is going on in their communities and they plan to do whatever they can to stop this particular project.

“We’re actually trying to do something,” said 11-year-old Santiago Preciado-Cruz of Warriors for Justice. “We’re not just a school club that’s … just talking about it.”

An adult advisor to the youth groups said the kids are tireless in their efforts to make their communities a better place by fighting climate change, among other things.

“It’s totally inspiring to be around them,” said Carolyn Norr of 350 Bay Area, a nonprofit working to combat climate change. “They are absolutely dedicated.”

An attorney for the project declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.

A spokesman for the Bank of Montreal did not respond to requests for comment.

Kiley Russell, Bay City News

Kiley Russell writes primarily for Local News Matters on issues related to equity and the environment. A Bay Area native, he has lived most of his life in Oakland. He studied journalism at San Francisco State University, worked for the Associated Press and the former Contra Costa Times, among other outlets. He has covered everything from state legislatures, local governments, federal and state courts, crime, growth and development, political campaigns of various stripes, wildfires and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.