[Read more live coverage of the climate strikes.]
They packed Foley Square and the streets around City Hall, and jammed the stairs leading out of nearby subway stations. They carried handmade signs like one reading “There is no plan(et) B” and chanted, “The sea is rising and so are we!” Later they paraded out of the square, bound for another rally at the Battery.
Worried about the future and frustrated by what they consider officials’ failure to address a crisis, thousands of young people marched through Lower Manhattan on Friday during a day of global climate protests.
They said that too little was being done as planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions rise. One test of their message will come on Monday, when world leaders convene at the United Nations to discuss what they are willing to do about climate change. More protests are planned for Monday in several cities.
The crowd was young and totaled at least 60,000, according to an estimate from the mayor’s office. A permit had been issued for 5,000, leading some organizers to joke that maybe they had done too much outreach.
Many of the participants were students who had taken the day off with the blessing of the city’s school system. Schools excused their absence if they had their parents’ permission to take part in the day’s protests, which began in the morning as schoolchildren walked through their neighborhoods instead of going to class.
The protests were inspired by Greta Thunberg, 16, a Swedish activist who sailed to New York in an emissions-free yacht last month. Demonstrators as young as 9 turned up to greet her when she arrived last month.
Ms. Thunberg was scheduled to speak in New York on Friday afternoon.
One of the youngest organizers of the New York event was Marisol Rivera, 13, who attends school in the Bronx. Hurricane Sandy damaged her home, and she has relatives in Puerto Rico whose lives were upended by Hurricane Maria.
“I feel hopeful seeing the power of all these people here today, calling to end fossil fuels and build a better future for us,” she said.
As the rally began in Foley Square, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said on Twitter: “The #ClimateStrike is about our future,” it said. “Either we have one or we don’t.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued a statement on Friday that took aim at climate change deniers. “Our young people understand climate change is no longer up for debate — it’s reality based in science.” the statement said.
Andy Gao, 16, an 11th-grader at Brooklyn Technical High School, said the recent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong inspired him to attend the climate demonstration in New York. “They are fighting for their future,” he said, “and people here care about our future, too. If our planet is burnt and polluted, what future will we have? Better to strike today than to stay in school and do nothing about it.”
Ajani Stella, 13, an eighth-grader at Hunter College High School, said he had been “invested in the movement for fossil fuel divestment.” He said that when he was 10, he took the issue to the board of the Teachers’ Retirement System of the City of New York, which, with 200,000 members, is one of the largest pension systems in the United States.
But amid the sophisticated discussions, it was clear that young people were driving the day. Signs written in pen included insults about President Trump; there were riffs on Dr. Seuss (“I speak for the trees!”) and Wall-E, the Pixar robot that collects trash on a desolate Earth.
Environmental advocates were thrilled by New York City’s decision this week to allow its 1.1 million public school students to be excused from class and attend the protests if they had their parents’ permission.
But teachers and other school employees were told they could not go because the Education Department determined that it would violate rules ensuring a “politically neutral learning environment,” as would classrooms that staged their own climate-action walkouts on school property.
[Teachers in New York City were barred from attending protests.]
Yet at the usual morning drop-off time, elementary school students appeared to be staging rallies led by parents or the students themselves.
“P.S. 10 kids wouldn’t take no for an answer,” said Elizabeth Meister, whose fifth-grader at the school in Park Slope, Brooklyn, helped organize a demonstration in which children waved signs and sat down in their schoolyard for 15 minutes instead of filing in for class.
A planned field trip to a protest nearby had been canceled.
The decision to prohibit school staff members from participating in demonstrations underscored the difficulties in separating the politics of climate change from teaching the science about it, even in liberal-leaning New York, and even in a school system that some experts consider a national leader in taking climate issues into the classroom.
Many critics — ranging from climate-change deniers to people who argue for a different way to deal with climate change — maintained that Mayor Bill de Blasio was using classroom attendance to promote a political aim. The New York Post’s editorial board called the decision “out-and-out government sponsorship of a particular point of view.”
Michael Gold contributed reporting.