MADISON, Wis. — Hundreds of students in Madison skipped class and gathered at the state Capitol on Friday to protest what they see as a lack of government action to combat climate change.
The rally was part of a series of student climate change protests around the world Friday. The protest began on the Capitol steps, with students holding signs that read "No Jobs on a Dead Planet" and "This Is Our Future."
Audrey Ehrhardt, a 15-year-old sophomore at Madison West High School, showed up with the planet Earth painted on her cheek and a sign that read "Be a Part of the Solution, Not Part of the Pollution."
"Start caring," she said. "People need to do everything in their power to help save the world, basically."
Protesters then poured inside the building, chanting as they moved through the corridors. A group of about 150 students jammed the corridors in front of Senate Democratic Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling's and Senate Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's offices and demanded to be let inside.
"What do we want? Clean air!" they chanted. One protester held a sign that read "Fossil Fuels" above photographs of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
No one opened the doors for them and they eventually moved on to other parts of the Capitol. They left behind dozens of sticky notes on the walls with parting messages.
"I strike because we only have one earth," one note read. "I strike because we don't have time left," read another.
The protesters then crammed into the state Assembly's foyer and sat down in front of the closed door of Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos' office.
"We want Vos! We want Vos!" they screamed, referring to Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. "Let us in!"
The door did not open. Vos' spokeswoman, Kit Beyer, didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Meanwhile, about 1,000 Minnesota students skipped school to gather on the steps of the state Capitol in St. Paul.
They chanted, "Stop denying the earth is dying" and called for passage of the Green New Deal, a sweeping environmental plan backed by progressives.
Farrah Bergstrom, a 16-year-old sophomore from Wayzata High School, told the crowd, "It is of utmost importance that our leaders be held accountable now."
Bergstrom says that's because climate change is not a distant issue for young people. She says the next generations are the ones that will be affected the most.
Similar "school strikes," inspired by a Swedish activist, were planned in Rochester and Duluth.