ELIZABETH, NJ: On Saturday September 26th, the Union County hub of the Sunrise Movement, in collaboration with the Young Ecosocialist Caucus of New Jersey and Cosecha NJ, held a demonstration for environmental justice – “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies” as defined by the US EPA – in Elizabeth.
The Rally started at approximately 12:30 PM right outside the Union County Courthouse and wrapped up at around 3:00. Activists and speakers led songs and chants, read a lengthy demands resolution signed by several local organizations, including the Newark Water Coalition, the Progressive Democrats of Union County, and the New Jersey Green Party, and took to the podium to tell personal stories and underscore the impact of environmental racism on Elizabeth residents and across New Jersey. The “Rally for Environmental Justice” was planned for the day after the September 25th International Day of Climate Action, after a coalition of youth climate organizations hosted a series of teach-ins about environmental racism in New York City. To give voice to the intersectionality of the climate crisis is an aim at the heart of the climate justice movement, but environmental injustice is often overlooked in the confluence of factors that drive the climate crisis.
The Sunrise Union County, YES Caucus and Cosecha organizers that led the event hoped to draw attention to the systems of oppression underlying the more observable effects of air, water and solid waste pollution.
Sunrise UC co-hub coordinator Daniella Rivera described the stark contrast in quality of life within Union County: “The truth is that there are two completely different realities going on within Union County. I grew up in Elizabeth, where I thought it was normal to see factories producing smoke into our air 24 hours a day, or that it was okay to not be able to drink from our school’s water fountains due to the ongoing water crisis in Newark. I was fortunate enough to get accepted into a school like the Academy for Performing Arts, however the vast difference of the quality of life between myself and my peers shocked me. From a young age, Elizabeth schools would greet us with metal detectors and mandatory bag checks every single day, no matter what age or how the weather was. I remember saying this in Scotch Plains and everyone reacted as if I said something horrible, but to me it was completely normal. I rally in an effort to put an end to systemic racism in BIPOC communities.”
YES Caucus Secretary Justin Roig’s powerful speech was a testament to the specific nature environmental issues across New Jersey…
Read more:: Student Environmental Activists Rally For Environmental Justice in Elizabeth