Hundreds of young people marched Friday morning in downtown Oakland to the beat of drums to say no to coal in the city and no to climate change.

Youth gathered in front of Oakland City Hall and chanted before marching to Oakland police headquarters at Seventh Street and Broadway.

“What do we want?” leaders of the group asked.

“Climate justice,” the group yelled back.

“When do we want it?” the leaders said.

“Now,” the group replied.

The youth consisted of elementary, middle and high school students from the Bay Area brought together by Youth vs. Apocalypse and other groups such as No Coal in Oakland.
Community members involved with No Coal in Oakland have been working to block the shipment of coal through a port terminal on the former Oakland Army base.

Dr. Ann Harvey, a coordinating member of the committee for No Coal in Oakland, said people get sick and die from coal dust. Shipping that dust pollutes communities all along the route, Harvey said.

She said developer Phil Tagami has pulled out of negotiations with the city and coal is back on the table.

Neither Tagami nor officials with the Oakland City Attorney’s office were available by phone early Friday afternoon to confirm or deny the allegation. Emails to both parties were not immediately returned.

A court date is set for April of next year if the city and Tagami do not reach an agreement.

“We are fighting for our lives,” said Aniya Butler, 16, of Oakland Charter High School, who was one of a half dozen or so leaders of the march.

The group took a knee for about two minutes at Seventh and Broadway to honor lives lost to police violence.

Kendal Erving, 15, and LaShonte Blount, 15, of Oakland’s Fremont High School said they marched Friday to make sure they have a world to live in in 30 to 40 years.

“We’re just advocates for our community,” the pair said by phone.

Amir Cornish, 19, of West Oakland, said, “I’m here today because climate change is a real thing. We shouldn’t take things lightly.”

Some onlookers expressed support for the march.

“I approve of that,” said Tom Meseroll, who is from Los Angeles and in Oakland to see his son play piano.

Noel Naya, 27, of Oakland, thinks it’s important for young people to voice what their concerns are. That’s something he couldn’t do until college.

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.