Joining an international movement advocating for climate science, an estimated 2,500 people from the Madison community marched to the city’s main electric company on Earth Day to raise awareness about environmental protection policies and programs they feel are at jeopardy at both the local and national level.
The Madison Climate March is one of hundreds of protests involving the environment taking place across the world today and next weekend, about a month after the first federal budget proposal under President Donald Trump—which cuts funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent—was released.
“In that face of one of the most hostile administrations that this state, this nation and Mother Earth have known, we can take heart in knowing that the history that we represent is bigger than that,” said Tony Schultz, who owns an organic farm in central Wisconsin. “The local food movement is bigger than Donald Trump and renewable energy is bigger than Scott Walker.”
Participants gathered on the state Capitol lawn to listen to several advocates speak before making their way to Madison Gas and Electric to picket for clean energy.
MGE shareholder Beth Esser told the crowd that the threat of climate change made her re-evaluate her investments.
“I was saddened to learn that we had been greenwashed by MGE,” Esser said. “Despite their solar pilot projects, their electric-vehicle charging stations and their green ads, MGE has continued to rely on fossil fuels for 88 percent of their electric generation.”
Speakers Eric Upchurch II and Brandi Grayson, members of the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition, both focused on how intersectionality plays into tackling issues like climate change.
Upchurch said creating change starts with members of different social movements coming together.
“This is our fight,” Upchurch said. “We have to grow up and realize that we are intersectional human beings.”
Grayson added, “We need to come together and act like we are of the same race, the human race.”
Protesters holding picket signs and cardboard cutouts of earth and trees chanted, “When our earth is under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back,” as they made their way to MGE.
Organizers had planned a route down East Main Street, but police later directed marchers to take a detour through East Washington Avenue, accommodating the larger-than-expected crowd and surrounding construction.
Filling the street outside of MGE, the crowd shouted chants including, “no more coal, no more oil, we don’t want our earth to boil,” while a group of people congregated in a line to spell out “justice.”
“We need to stop using fossil fuels,” protester Elise Patton said. “We need to put people to work making wind turbines and solar panels.”
Local law enforcement has not yet said whether they had any issues, but one Madison Police Department officer said during the march that things were going smoothly.
“Everybody seems peaceful, respectful and are having fun,” MPD Lt. Tim Peregoy said.
Sammy Gibbons, Maggie Chandler, Claire Lancaster, Téalin Robinson and Lulu de Vogel contributed to this report.