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City provides respite for climate marchers

The city of Claremont was a welcome stop for weary travelers on Tuesday.

Locals gathered at Larkin Park in the afternoon sun to greet a pack of protesters completing a 3,000-mile journey on foot from Los Angeles to Washington, DC, all part of the Great March for Climate Action.

The trek kicked off last Saturday from Wilmington, Calif., just outside of Los Angeles, where an estimated 1500 gathered to call attention to the effects of the climate crisis. The torrential downpour did little to dampen spirits as around 50 marchers began the first leg of their cross-country caravan in the name of political reform.

“Historically, marches have helped create a shift in consciousness,” said Shari Hrdina, administrative director of the march. “The Women’s Suffrage March, Martin Luther King’s Civil Rights Movement and Gandhi’s Salt March are all great examples. The purpose of our march is to help bring attention to the issue and change people’s consciousness so action can happen quicker.”

Thousands are expected to join in the cause by journey’s end—tentatively set for November 1, 2014. The now sweeping movement started from humble beginnings. Former Iowa Senator Ed Fallon, a progressive talk radio show host and an area coordinator for the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament, first sparked the idea. Held in 1986, the Great Peace March was a similar effort to the Great March for Climate Change, seeking to bring attention to the dangers of nuclear weaponry, and advocate for its eradication. The experience was eye opening for some. For Mr. Fallon, it was transformative.

“It inspired me to see people of all backgrounds and economic levels so excited about what we were doing,” he said.

The state of global warming inspired Mr. Fallon into action once more. Plans for another Great March began in February, and while the road to the kick-off was long and tedious, the idea of a peaceful protest has latched on with activists across the nation. Lala Palazzolo, a Michigan native who is also a veteran of the Great Peace March, is one of many who have taken to his concept. A recent “empty nester,” Ms. Palazzolo said she felt compelled to put her protest prowess back to work, and was in turn inspired by Mr. Fallon’s cause. 

“I’m done sitting back at home being passive,” she said. “I want to give back to the bigger picture. Apathy is worth rebelling against.”

Ms. Palazzolo and fellow marchers will do just that, spending the next 246 days braving the elements in their crusade to Capitol Hill. The weather, however, isn’t the only obstacle they’re facing. Every day presents a new challenge as event organizers search for shelter and other accommodations along the way. While showers are scarce and some days participants have nothing but tents and open land after a long day’s travel, Ken Snyder, a walker from Long Island, New York, says he has been moved by the outpour of support from community groups and local churches.

In their usual way, Claremont volunteers stepped up to the plate to provide the travelers a little respite from the burden of the road. After two nights of camping and several days without a shower, protesters had the opportunity to stay in the comforts of home Tuesday night before hitting the road for Rialto on Thursday.

The campaign is far from over and many more uncertainties lie ahead, but marchers walk into the unknown with open arms. They hope others will remain equally open to their conversation promoting environmental justice, sustainability and nonviolent action. 

“This [march] is an impetus for change,” Ms. Palazzolo said.

For more on the Great March for Climate Change or to track the walkers’ progress, visit climatechange.org or check out the Facebook page.

—Beth Hartnett


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