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Mass. activists march for climate change action in Washington

Bostonians participating in a march in Washington arrived early Saturday at a subway station in New Carrollton, Md., before heading into the capital.

Lee Matsueda/Alternatives for Community and Environment.

Bostonians participating in a march in Washington arrived early Saturday at a subway station in New Carrollton, Md., before heading into the capital.

It was an exhausting trip for the hundreds of Massachusetts residents who traveled overnight to take part in the flagship climate change march in the nation’s capital, but many said sleep deprivation was worth a chance to rally in front of the White House.

“It’s incredibly important that on the 100th day of Trump’s presidency, we are loud and visible on his doorstep demanding climate justice,” said Emily Kirkland, director of organizing for 350 Massachusetts for a Better Future, a grass-roots statewide movement that works to promote action on climate change.

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Eleven buses, organized by 350 Massachusetts, left at about 10 p.m. Friday from a variety of locations across the Commonwealth and arrived in Washington, D.C., early Saturday. The participants marched all day and were scheduled to board buses for the return trip Saturday night.

Those buses, which carried about 600 marchers, were just some of the many coaches organized to bring Bay State residents to Washington this weekend.

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Cities across the world held marches in tandem with the Washington event, including one on Boston Common that drew thousands. The marches were sponsored by Peoples Climate March, and they were held to rally against President Trump’s alleged attacks on climate change and to advocate for environmental protection.

US Senator Ed Markey and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey were among participants in the Washington march.

Healey said she made the trip to Washington to stand up for the efforts Massachusetts leaders have made to combat climate change.

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“We’ve got an important story to tell here in Massachusetts, and I think that the presence of Massachusetts at today’s national people’s climate march is significant because people look towards Massachusetts for leadership,” she said in a phone interview after the event.

Healey said the Trump administration seems “dead set on going backwards,” and it’s up to the states to ensure environmental laws are enforced and to protect the investments they’ve made in the field.

“The states are not going to just stand by and allow for this to happen,” she said. “We need to be present and to be active.”

Alternatives for Community and Environment, a Boston environmental justice organization, organized four buses, filled with people representing at least 10 different service organizations. The buses left at about 11 p.m. Friday from Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Roxbury.

Lee Matsueda, the political director for the group, said the organizations all have individual missions, but rallying around climate change gives them a chance to engage with people across the country on an issue that affects everyone. It builds a foundation for working together in the future, he said.

“It’s got to go beyond any one mobilization,” he said. “Whether you’re there in Boston or here in D.C., the real work has got to continue beyond that.”

Students and professors from Salem State University and North Shore Community College formed their own coalition to go to Washington.

‘It’s got to go beyond any one mobilization . . . the real work has got to continue beyond that.’

Lee Matsueda, Alternatives for Community and Environment 
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Joe Modugno, director of the environmental studies program at North Shore Community College, said he first proposed the idea to his students in January and they began collaborating with other groups to make it happen.

Modugno’s students already have planned ways to bring their activism back to campus and spread the word. Modugno hopes his students leave Washington with a sense of social responsibility and appreciation for the value of activism.

“It’s not enough just to study this stuff,” he said. “You have to do something about it.”

Marc Grant, a Chelmsford resident who is involved in the Lowell chapter of 350 Massachusetts, got on a chartered bus to Washington with three friends. He said taking part in the national movement gives Bay State activists inspiration for solving climate-change problems on a state level.

He hopes state leaders will notice the energy behind the movement and start to propose more climate change action in the Legislature.

“It’s even more important for our state senators and representatives to move Massachusetts ahead and maybe provide some leadership on clean energy the way we have in the past on social issues,” he said. “Massachusetts can be sort of a progressive laboratory for making progress.”

Felicia Gans can be reached at felicia.gans@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.
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