FARGO — With a megaphone in hand, 10-year-old Penelope Echola led chants in front of Fargo City Hall on Friday, Sept. 20, as part of the youth-led global movement calling for action on the climate crisis.

Echola was one of dozens of students from around Fargo-Moorhead who abandoned class to join the global climate strike that took place in cities around the world. Students at two middle schools in Fargo, Ben Franklin and Carl Ben Eielson, also organized strikes on Friday.

Millions came together for the protest sparked by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, a Swedish climate activist who's inspired youth to demand more of their elected leaders when it comes to protecting the environment.

Organizers said Fargo's demonstration will be followed by a town hall-style meeting with local elected leaders to hear residents' concerns about climate change. Dana Bisignani, a member of the Red River Valley Democratic Socialists of America, said they expect to hold this meeting within the next month.

Students display signs during a small climate strike rally at Ben Franklin Middle School in north Fargo on Friday, Sept. 20. David Samson / The Forum
Students display signs during a small climate strike rally at Ben Franklin Middle School in north Fargo on Friday, Sept. 20. David Samson / The Forum

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Neva Francis, a nurse and mother from Fargo, said the time for action is now. She attended the strike with her 5-year-old son, Cole, and 7-year-old daughter, Remi — who motivated the entire family to join the protest.

The Red River Valley Democratic Socialists of America and Sunrise Movement, a nonprofit, youth-led political organization supporting the Green New Deal, helped organized Friday's strike at City Hall. There, college, high school and elementary students were in attendance, as well as parents and grandparents.

"It is really important for us, not only as grownups to be talking about climate change and educating our young people, but it's important for us to get out here and have action and show that we really mean it when we say this is an emergency and we need to act on it," Francis said. "We need to listen to scientists and their recommendations, and we need to follow that."

Fargo North High School student Tasha Branden, 18, went on strike even though it was homecoming week. She said the climate crisis is a greater priority.

"This is a very contentious issue for me," she said. "Despite it being something that should be a fact, a lot of people take it as a political ideology."

Branden said she's been involved in her high school's environmental club, and she intends to carry that with her to college and find a related career.

"We have no choice but to act," said Sam Lacasse, a 23-year-old graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead. His sign on Friday stated: "The wrong Amazon is (still) burning."

Among the crowd were many handmade signs drawing attention to the cause, like "I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is," "There is no Planet B," and images of the Earth melting like ice cream.