Participants in the March for Science on Saturday at Yosemite National Park paused on their route as they tried to zoom their camera lenses onto a banner being unfurled over Yosemite Falls.
The banner said “RESIST,” a reference to calls of opposition to the policies of President Donald Trump.
Many residents of the Central Valley and Yosemite areas met at the park to protest the Trump administration’s policies by promoting the history, study and understanding of science.
The March for Science was an international event coinciding with Earth Day and held in many U.S. cities. Photos shared on the official page show thousands of people marching in cities such as San Francisco, Chicago, San Diego and the District of Columbia.
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“We feel like it’s always been very important to celebrate science,” said organizer LothLorien Stewart, an activist-artist and former science teacher.
But Stewart said it was especially important this year.
“This connection between Yosemite and science is very deep,” she said.
Some participants at Yosemite’s rally said they wanted to call attention to Trump’s proposed Environmental Protection Agency and cancer research funding cuts.
“I feel like we’re fighting back against regressive policies,” said Kriszti Mendonca, an Oakhurst resident.
Mendonca marched with friends, her 12-year-old son, Ian Mendonca, and Ian’s friend, 13-year-old Oakhurst resident Joey Star.
“I enjoy nature and the trees, more than the cities,” Ian said, adding that he feels Trump’s policies could harm national treasures like Yosemite.
Participants of the march also called out Trump for a Nov. 6, 2012, tweet in which Trump claims global warming was created by the Chinese to hinder American manufacturing.
On Saturday, Trump released an official statement about Earth Day, claiming his administration “is committed to keeping our air and water clean, to preserving our forests, lakes, and open spaces, and to protecting endangered species.”
Also in Trump’s statement, he claims that economic growth enhances environmental protection.
“We can and must protect our environment without harming America’s working families,” Trump states, adding that his administration is reducing burdens on workers and companies “while being mindful that our actions must also protect the environment.”
Also in the statement, Trump touts science as critical to both economic growth and environmental protection, while stating, “we should remember that rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.”
The statement did not mention climate change. But that topic was the primary rallying call for activists and participants during the mile-long march.
About 150 people split into marching groups and walked along a trail south of the Yosemite Valley Visitors Center to a parking lot at the corner of Sentinel Drive and Cook’s Meadow Loop.
They chanted and took photos under the backdrop of Yosemite Falls before continuing the march west around a trail that ends at the visitors center.
Many marchers held up signs with pro-science slogans such as “The climate is changing, we need it;” “Science Trumps alternative facts” and “It’s getting hot in here, let’s take off all our coals.”
During the march is when participants saw a black banner being lowered by people on ropes at Yosemite Falls.
Scott Gediman, the public affairs officer for Yosemite, said the “RESIST” banner was removed before the end of the day.
The National Park Service didn’t know who put the banner up, he said.
Gediman also noted that the March for Science was not affiliated with the Park Service, which held its own slew of annual Earth Day events at the visitors center, including the UC Merced’s “Shakespeare in Yosemite” performance in the afternoon.
A similar banner with the word capitalized word “RESIST” was hung on a crane near the White House during the first week of Trump’s presidency, leading to the arrest of activists from the environmentalist, anti-Trump Greenpeace organization.
However, Greenpeace spokeswoman Kat Clark told the Sun-Star Saturday the organization wasn’t involved in hanging the banner at Yosemite.
After marchers arrived back at the visitors center, organizers held a program that invited several scientists, including a number of UC Merced professors, to speak on the importance of science and their research.
LeRoy Westerling, an associate professor with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute and UC Merced, said his research shows climate change has been increasing the severity of droughts and wildfires in California. He also noted that the number of wildfires will double soon.
Another one of the scientists, Sierra Nevada forest analyst Liz Van Wagtendonk, told the Sun-Star she hopes the march helps engage the public with facts.
“We (scientists) should be trying to help the people understand the story of science,” Van Wagtendonk said. “All of us need to work better on presenting the facts in a language they can understand.”
Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562