With protests against President Trump becoming almost a weekly occurrence, about 2,000 demonstrators rallied at City Hall on Saturday against his climate policies and urged renewed efforts to combat global warming. It was one of a number of rallies nationwide voicing opposition to Trump’s agenda on the environment.
After gathering at City Hall, the protesters braved hotter-than-usual temperatures and humidity as they marched westward along JFK Boulevard in Center City, an area where traffic had already been disrupted by NFL draft festivities on the Parkway.
The Philadelphia rally was aimed in part at recognizing the activism of the Standing Rock Sioux of North Dakota and their long opposition to a planned oil pipeline there. The Trump administration's support of the coal and oil industries has had damaging consequences for Native Americans and other minorities, said an event organizer Jed Laucharoen.
“Basically, the point is for a lot of people to get together in this space and show resistance to the current administration’s offensive moves on the environment and poor communities,” said Laucharoen. "They are the most affected by these policies.”
Carrying signs saying, "Climate change is a scientific reality," "No pipelines in the Great Lakes," and "I'm with her," with an arrow pointing to a picture of planet Earth, the mood of the crowd was jovial and polite. Their route took participants first down JFK Boulevard and then to Market Street. The march ended about 3 p.m. on the Market Street bridge over the Schuylkill, near 30th Street Station.
"I'm here to raise awareness about the issues facing the planet, and to let people know what is going on," said Dottie Kane, of Downingtown, who was among the crowd gathered on an unseasonably warm, very humid April day. Temperatures were in the low 80s by early afternoon, with the high reaching 86. (The record high for April 29 is 90 degrees, set in 1974, according to Stormfax.com.)
Kane's friend Sally Wolgin, of Wayne, said she was frustrated by the direction of the national government on environmental issues.
"I don't like what is going on," Wolgin said. "I don't understand how you can deny this [global warming]."
The rally began with several speeches on the north side of City Hall by the event's organizers, who sought to tie the Trump administration's support for fossil fuels to environmental degradation that was particularly harmful to the poor and disadvantaged.
"We're here to say climate change matters," said Trine Smith, one of the organizers. "This is a very serious matter."
Similar rallies in Washington, where organizers said they were planning for 450 busloads Saturday, and other cities drew tens of thousands of people nationwide. They followed massive rallies a week ago in Philadelphia and around the country, also to protest the administration’s environmental policies. In what was called the "March for Science," about 10,000 demonstrators marched from City Hall to Penn’s Landing to call for government policies to reduce greenhouse gases and head off global warming.
In January, shortly after he took office, Trump signed executive orders advancing construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, a 1,179-mile project intended to bring tar-sands oil from Alberta south into the United States, and the Dakota Access Pipeline, a 1,172-mile project for transporting Dakota shale oil south. Those two actions galvanized climate activists and provided much of the energy driving Saturday’s protests.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is the project of Energy Transfer Partners, former parent company of Newtown Square-based Sunoco Logistics, which operates a pipeline and terminal network. The two companies merged on Friday.