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March For Stolen Lives demand elected officials stop taking money from fossil fuel companies and police unions

The march comes ahead of the California Democratic Party's Sunday vote to potentially prohibit donations from such groups.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Some students say they want the state to stop investing their teachers’ retirement funds in fossil fuels. That’s one of the demands activists made Friday while marching from the California State Teachers’ Retirement System building to the steps of the capitol. 

History has shown us that fossil fuels have a disproportionately high impact on black, brown, and indigenous people. It’s called environmental racism, and now activists are calling out elected officials who play a part in it, whether it be by accepting money from the industry or investing in it. 

"You can’t 'be for the youth' and destroy our future at the same time," said 13-year-old Jasia Hilaski. 

"You can’t take the fossil fuel out of fossil fuel companies," she added. "That’s like saying you want a paper factory to stop producing paper."

At 13, Jasia is sending a message directly to the nation’s second-largest public pension fund, CalSTRS, which she says is investing billions in fossil fuels. 

"Don’t you find it ironic that teachers spend their entire lives devoted to bettering their students’ futures when their money is being invested in the exact opposite?" she asked the crowd of activists.  

Ramauri Cash is 14 years old. 

“Environmental racism really hits deep for me because my grandmother, she lives in a low income and poverty-stricken area and they placed a really big oil refinery right next to her neighborhood," Ramauri said. 

He said the finery is taking a toll on his grandmother’s health, starting with her asthma. 

Vianni Ledesma drove all the way from San Diego to participate in the march. 

“It’s become clear that what’s really impeding our progress is the influence of fossil fuel money on our parties and politicians," Ledesma said. 

Their request is not just for CalSTRS.

“Our ask for Newsom is to stop permitting new fossil fuel structure," she added." Again, it makes so much sense to support a dying industry that is killing us and our planet."

Their request goes beyond Gov. Gavin Newsom too. 

“Come this weekend, we’re hoping to be successful and have the party vote yes on removing fossil fuel and police money from the party," Ledesma said. 

On Sunday, the California Democratic Party is set to vote on prohibiting donations from major interest groups like police unions, utility companies, and more. 

In a statement, CalSTRS said they agree that climate change is a risk to their portfolio and to everyone's future:

“CalSTRS agrees that climate change is a risk to our portfolio and to our futures. With that in mind, the Teachers’ Retirement Board committed to achieving a net-zero investment portfolio by 2050 or sooner. This pledge is aligned with the many steps we’ve taken to help combat the effect of climate change and is rooted in our promise to provide a secure retirement to California’s public educators and their families. I commend activists in California and around the world for raising awareness about the dire risk of climate change. We share their sense of urgency.”

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