By Mrinal Gokhale
“Climate Change is Real” and “Your House is on Fire” were just some phrases displayed on signs held by children as young as six on a chilly afternoon at Zeidler Park, 301 W. Michigan St. This rally, coordinated by the People’s Climate Coalition, was held to call for Wells Fargo and Chase Bank to stop financing fossil fuel companies.
Starting at 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 6, hundreds of students from Greenfield Bilingual Elementary School and North Division High School along with members from local activism organizations met at the park. The meeting kicked off with some remarks on the climate change crisis, and the attendees later marched to Wells Fargo.
A press release by the Gaia Coalition Network stated that Wells Fargo and Chase Banks have provided 347.3 billion dollars to fossil fuel companies and their executives since the Paris Agreement in 2016. This includes oil pipelines, fracking, sulfide mining, coal mining, and oil drilling.
“Each year, five Milwaukee schools begin an intensive collaborative process to design greener, healthier school yards, green spaces, green houses, and MPS nutritionists are looking for ways to provide cleaner food,” said Maleak Taylor, a student at North Division High School and member of Youth Rising Up.
Taylor was joined by Allaysha McBeath, another North Division High School Student and Youth Rising member.
“If we don’t change this, the Earth could set on fire, the animals could die, and the plants could die. We need all that to survive, and we’re here today to change that,” she said. “I feel scared because we’re really not doing much about it.”
Fabi Maldonado, Racine County Supervisor of District 2, said that he feels it’s important for underrepresented communities to have a voice when it comes to climate change.
“If we don’t move now, we’ll face extreme weather and droughts that will cause face food shortages, elevated sea levels, and mass extinction of all sorts of lives,” Maldonado said.
He said that the fight for clean water became his battle when he protested against the installment of the Dakota Access oil pipeline along with thousands of people in 2016.
“It was the first time in my life where I felt compelled to go and stand up for what was right. It was the most powerful experience of my life, and I came back to Wisconsin more ready than ever to do what’s right for my community,” he said.
The non-violent protest at Wells Fargo led to the arrest of 11 individuals. This included Alex Brower, the Substitute Teacher President for the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association Union, Mike Quesada, Co-Founder of Extinction Rebellion Milwaukee, Kesha Patel, Co-Founder of the Gaia Coalition Network, Terry Wiggins of 350 Milwaukee and Jim Kennedy, Hub Coordinator for the Sunrise Movement Milwaukee.