Thousands of protesters took to the streets in front of the White House on Saturday to voice their opposition to President Donald Trump’s environment policies as he marks a hundred days in office.
They demanded that he rethink plans to reverse the climate change policies backed by his predecessor.
The Peoples Climate March, the culmination of a string of Earth Week protests that began with last Saturday’s March for Science, coincides with Trump’s 100th day in office, the end of the traditional “honeymoon” period for a new president.
As temperatures rose above 90 degrees Fahrenheit under hazy skies in the nation’s capital, tens of thousands of people marched from the grounds of the US Capitol and passed the White House en route to the Washington Monument for a rally.
Many of the protesters carried signs with slogans such as “The seas are rising and so are we” and “Don’t be a fossil fool.” As the procession passed the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, marchers booed and chanted “shame.”
“Enjoy the day, enjoy the weather,” Trump, speaking to reporters ahead of a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania commemorating his 100th day in office said when asked what he would tell those rallying on climate change.
While a good-natured mood prevailed and there were no signs of violence, many demonstrators said they were angered by the prospect of Trump carrying through on his vow to roll back protections put in place by his predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama.
“We’re going to rise up and let them know that we’re sick and tired of seeing our children die of asthma,” said Rev. Leo Woodberry of Florence, South Carolina, who spoke during a press conference before the march. “We’re sick and tired of seeing people with cancer because of coal ash ponds. We’re sick and tired of seeing sea-level rise.”
Trump’s administration is considering withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, which more than 190 countries including the United States signed in hopes of curbing global warming. Trump has also proposed deep cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency and the elimination of many environmental regulations.
In his campaign, Trump called climate change a hoax. Last month he kept a promise to the coal industry by undoing climate-change rules put in place by Obama.
Tom McGettrick, 57, an electrical engineer who drove up from the Florida Keys to attend the march, said his main concern is the weakening of the EPA.
“Forty years of environmental protection has done wonders for the environment, especially in the Midwest,” said McGettrick, who spent most of his life in Michigan.
“When I was a teenager and went to Lake Erie, it was one of the most polluted bodies of water in the country,” he said. “Now when you go to Lake Erie it’s really beautiful.”
The Washington event, which coincided with Trump’s 100-day milestone, followed an exclusive interview with Reuters in which the president reflected wistfully on his life as a billionaire real estate developer that he left behind after his Jan. 20 inauguration.
“This is more work than in my previous life,” Trump told Reuters. “I thought it would be easier.”
Saturday’s march was part of an effort to build support for candidates with strong environmental records in the run-up to next year’s midterm elections and the 2020 presidential race, organizers said.
“We’re using this as a tactic to advance the strategy of building enough power to win on climate over the course of the long haul,” said Paul Getsos, national coordinator for the Peoples Climate Movement. Sponsors of Saturday’s events include labor unions, the Sierra Club and civil rights groups.
Dozens of “sister” marches took place for other North America locales, from Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, to Dutch Harbor in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.
Thousands of people marched through downtown Chicago and outside Trump Tower to demand action to prevent climate change and protect the environment.
Thousands of people also assembled in Texas to demand federal action on climate change.
The Texas Department of Public Safety told the Austin American-Statesman that about 3,500 people participated in a rally Saturday in Austin — part of nationwide marches calling for climate action.
People marched from the Capitol to the University of Texas. Democratic US Rep. Lloyd Doggett was among the speakers who addressed the crowd.
Hundreds more gathered in Houston, where Mayor Sylvester Turner told participants that climate change is “very much real.”
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said climate marches were part of a fight for the future of the planet.
The former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination addressed an adoring crowd of about 3,000 people who turned out for a rally at the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier.
Sanders went through a litany of climate woes, including rising temperatures and increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. He said the fossil fuel industry puts short-term profits ahead of the best interests of the planet.
But he also noted a series of accomplishments that include ever-dropping costs of renewable energy production and well-paying jobs in renewable power.