A spirited throng of youthful climate activists took to the streets of San Francisco on Friday to demand action on several environmental fronts, including the cleanup of toxic soils on Treasure Island and in Bayview Hunters Point.
Spearheaded by Youth vs. Apocalypse, the crowd of roughly 500 children, chaperones and adult allies from several Bay Area cities took advantage of Earth Day to highlight what they see as critical environmental justice issues.
“Climate change is linked to racial oppression,” said Daniel Ahanonu, 18, during a post-march rally on the steps of San Francisco City Hall.
“We have to do something today, not tomorrow, not later,” said Ahanonu, a senior at Oakland’s Skyline High School.
Natalie Deiner, a 16-year-old junior from San Francisco’s Lincoln High School, collaborated with a classmate on a sidewalk mural in front of City Hall depicting a mushroom cloud with the words “get radiation out of Bayview now” spelled out in red across the top.
When city leaders come in and out of the building, it will remind them to keep their promises to the community, Deiner said.
Organizers said one of the event’s aims was to amplify voices from communities that have long struggled with soil, air and water contamination left over from former military installations or from existing industrial sources.
“The goal is to recenter Earth Day to focus on frontline communities affected by environmental justice issues, in particular in Bay View Hunters Point and Treasure Island — both have toxic and radioactive contamination with high levels of cancer and respiratory illnesses,” said Ashley Song, youth and community organizer with Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice.
“The goal is to get people thinking and engaging with these issues not only as environmental issues but as race issues and class issues,” Song said.
The march kicked off at U.N. Plaza, headed down Market Street and then along Turk, through the Tenderloin and then to City Hall, where the crowd listened to speakers, watched dancers and were fed snacks provided by the group 1000 Grandmothers for Future Generations.
“The goal is to get people thinking and engaging with these issues not only as environmental issues but as race issues and class issues.”Ashley Song, Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice
During the rally, elementary, middle and high school students from San Francisco, Oakland and Richmond addressed the crowd. Several speakers said city leadership needs to do more to ensure that the toxic legacy from the U.S. Navy’s activities in Hunters Point and on Treasure Island is thoroughly studied and cleaned up.
“We’re fighting for a seat at the table because we’ve been fighting this for far too long and there are numerous projects currently going on in Bayview Hunters Point,” said Lilla Pittman, a neighborhood resident and dance coach whose troupe also performed at the event.
“Today we’re here to serve you a little bit of green peace, a little bit of love and a little bit of black girl magic,” Pittman said as she and her students begin their performance.
Towards the end of the rally, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin addressed the crowd, saying more work is needed on toxic cleanup sites around the city.
“We need to re-test the soil and the water and the air in those neighborhoods that have been impacted because people are literally getting and dying of cancer every day,” Boudin said.
“And we also need reparations for people who have been impacted,” he said.