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ASU students protest climate change on Tempe campus

The protest marked the end of the Week of Climate Action, which took place worldwide

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Students and community members demonstrate on the bridge over University Drive during a climate strike on ASU's Tempe campus in Tempe, Arizona on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. 

ASU students rallied on the Tempe campus Friday to cap off the Week of Climate Action, demanding a Green New Deal and other changes to current climate policy. 

The protest was led by Young Democratic Socialists of America at ASU and was the first of what will become weekly protests to continue to draw attention to the issue of climate change. Dozens of students and multiple organizations took part, including Arizona Youth Climate Strike and the Phoenix Sunrise Movement

Jake Phillip Morris, a member of YDSA and a junior majoring in earth and environmental studies, said that the protest was a way to hold the University accountable. 

"ASU has been very hypocritical and not fulfilling their promises of being a sustainable school," Morris said. "That's why we're here on campus."

The protesters also called for broader institutional changes and for corporations to take responsibility. 

"We're trying to push this anti-capitalist message because it's imperialism," Morris said. "It's greed that's driving the world to its death right now."

Tanzil Chowdhury, the chair of YDSA and senior majoring in materials science and engineering, talked to the crowd about "liberal climate denial" and how people need to be taking more radical action. 

"When you hear someone telling you that just riding your bike once a week, or that switching to a metal straw or taking a canvas shopping bag to the grocery store is going to fix everything, you tell them 'Yeah, I'm going to try doing those things,'" Chowdhury said at the protest. "But I want to see you out in the streets fighting for a Green New Deal. Because if you're not doing that you're no (better) than the climate deniers."

State Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe, an ASU alumnus who represents the area, spoke to the group about the lack of climate action from the Legislature and encouraged students to support his initiatives. 

"I'm continually inspired by all the young adults that are putting on organizing all these opportunities. But I hope you're not waiting for us to inspire you," Mendez said. "If you're done with the facts and the figures, when you're done reading over the doomsday scenarios and you learn how to create your own motivation, then I'm going to be ready to put you to work, and I got lots of ideas."  

Although most of the students were there to protest in support of a Green New Deal, there were a few counter-protesters arguing against politicizing the issue. ASU College Republicans tweeted how "when a dozen AZ College Republicans picked up trash in Tempe and Tucson, they did more for the environment than 100 protesters have today."

Chowdhury said that even though it may not be the younger generations that caused climate change, the responsibility falls on them to take action.

"We have two choices: we have the choice of cowardice or we have the choice of bravery. And I think all of you have taken the path of bravery," Chowdhury told the crowd. "Because even if we fail, even if we can't get this done, we will die trying."  

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