By Emma Niles

Protesters march past the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday. (via Emma Niles)

Thousands of climate change activists gathered at “Break Free L.A.” on Saturday to urge Mayor Eric Garcetti and California Gov. Jerry Brown to end the use of fossil fuels.

Our dependence on fossil fuels, including coal, oil and natural gas, has been contested for years. In April, the Center for International Environmental Law released documents proving what many have speculated: The fossil fuel industry has known of the associated climate change risks for decades. Now, a bill pending in the California State Senate would allow public prosecutors more freedom to take action against complicit companies.

California has been ahead of many states and even many countries when it comes to the pursuit of renewable energy—it’s already halfway to its goal of sourcing 50 percent of its energy from green power by 2030.

But much remains to be done. Recent environmental disasters—such as the Porter Ranch gas leaks and oil spills on the California coast, as well as urban oil drilling in Los Angeles—are reminders of the problems caused by the state’s reliance on fossil fuels. Climate activists at have posted a list of the harmful effects of fracking currently plaguing the state. And many Californians, fed up with Brown’s slow pace on change, decided to take action.

At 1 p.m. Saturday, protesters met on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall for “Break Free L.A.,” part of a worldwide day of protests against the use of fossil fuels. For about two hours, the crowd listened to speeches and live music before taking to the streets to march to the Southern California Gas Company headquarters a mile away.

The coalitions represented included Students for Bernie, Calpirg and Black Lives Matter. Local groups, Save Porter Ranch among them, were also present, as were a number of politically oriented organizations, such as Progressive Democrats for America, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the International Marxist-Humanist Organization and Nurses for Bernie. Local and national environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Communities for a Better Environment, STAND-L.A. and eight chapters of also turned out.

Although reliance on fossil fuels was the main issue of the day, protesters brought up other environmental concerns, including fracking, the use of coal, carbon taxes and harmful methane gas. Many coalitions spoke of social justice as a crucial issue relating to climate change. “If you look at the water crisis in Flint—it’s a predominantly working class and black community,” said Carolyn Homez of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. “That’s where you find a lot of … violence against the community. There’s no accountability there.” She also noted that Flint is only one of many cities with similar problems. “You currently have this in California as well, in Watts. This is affecting multiple communities. And this violence is predominantly against communities of color.”

Russell Greene, an activist with Climate Decision 2016, voiced similar concerns. “Until we are able to connect the social justice issues—unemployment, poverty … voter suppression and election integrity—to justice, we’re not going to be able to mobilize a large enough movement,” he said.

Despite the bright afternoon sun, energetic speakers kept the crowd motivated. The march through downtown L.A., although composed of thousands of loud citizens, was peaceful and organized.

Truthdig was on hand for the entire afternoon and captured some sights and sounds with Evrybit.

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