Caitlin O'Hara

Some 40 people gathered on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday evening to demand a greener future as the freezing wind blew away stray posters and the sun set behind them on the Elm City.

The rally, which coordinators referred to as a “Post-Election Rally for Climate Justice” was hosted by Sunrise New Haven, the New Haven Climate Movement and Unidad Latina en Acción. Participants called for “immediate action” from Mayor-elect Justin Elicker and the Board of Alders on three specific points, according to the event’s Facebook page. First, they called for Elicker to sign the Climate Emergency Resolution, which was recently passed by the Board of Alders and would create a Climate Emergency Task Force. Second, they called for the task force to establish a local “Green New Deal.” Third, they called for the Board of Alders to commit at least 0.1 percent of the city’s budget to “critical” climate actions.

“This rally is to broaden our climate justice movement,” emcee Adrian Huq ― a senior at New Haven magnet high school Metropolitan Business Academy and contributor to the New Haven Climate Movement ― told the crowd from the steps in front of the Amistad Memorial, which served as a stage for the speakers. “The change does start here at the local level. We have a lot of power. More than you think.”

The rally invited speakers from DSA Ecosocialism, Fossil Free Yale, Southern Connecticut University and other local activist groups. Each speaker took the stage for short-charged speeches.

Intermittently, group leaders would lead the crowd in chants, and the group would yell, “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Fossil fuels have got to go,” across Church Street. The timing of the event specifically targeted Elicker’s recent election — he will succeed three-term Mayor Toni Harp in January.

“We’re out here to put some extra pressure on Justin Elicker,” Sunrise New Haven volunteer Tyler Wakefield said. “We’re saying, hey, we know that you’ve said that you want to get this funding together, but we can’t have you waiting for the normal procedures to let this happen years down the line. We need this to happen right now.”

Wakefield told the News that Sunrise New Haven believes that the detrimental effects of climate change would not affect all groups in the community equally.

According to Wakefield, the activist group hopes the city will address these inequities in their plan of action and ultimately hopes to see a Green New Deal passed on both a federal and local stage.

“We’re asking [Elicker] what his plan is,” Shayla Peterson, speaker for Southern Connecticut University, told the News. “We want to know if he’s going to commit to climate action in his very first days in office.”

Representing Fossil Free Yale, Martin Man ARC ’19 criticized Yale’s investments in fossil fuels as a source of revenue for the University’s endowment.

“While Yale makes money from dirty energy, the same seas that rise in Puerto Rico also threaten homes and infrastructure in this city,” Man told the crowd. “While Yale trumpets its pioneering climate science, it deprives this city of the resources to make a just transition to a sustainable and equitable future.”

Man called for Yale to “diverge from the status quo” and divest in fossil fuels altogether and instead fund local sustainability efforts, citing “no proof” that fossil fuel divestment would generate significantly lower returns for the University.

The Yale Investments Office typically does not comment on its individual investments. But in April 2018, the office told the News that Yale has taken a “constructive approach” to addressing fossil fuel concerns across its investment portfolio.

“Climate change is a serious issue,” the Investments Office’s statement said last year. “Yale has gone on the record to say that greenhouse gas emissions ‘pose a grave threat to human existence’ and asked our external managers to avoid companies that refuse to acknowledge the social and financial costs of climate change and that fail to take economically sensible steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

New Haven resident and environmental educator for Common Ground High School Miranda Bailey-Russomano had just checked two books out of the New Haven Public Library when she decided to stop by the rally and take a later bus home, choosing to join demonstrators.

“It’s important to me to be here as a common citizen, not attached to a specific group,” Bailey-Russomano said. “I moved back to New Haven because I love being in the city, but New Haven is a small enough place that you can make a difference.”

While Elicker attended the rally, he did not make a formal statement to the crowd. He was elected with a 40-point margin over Harp last week, and just named a 24-person transition team.

Elicker will become New Haven’s 51st mayor in January.

Anna Gumberg | anna.gumberg@yale.edu