A group of more than 50 environmental activists organized a protest on Friday, marching from Whaley Park to the Target store on Bellflower Boulevard in East Long Beach.

In recognition of Earth Day, the protest was focused on urging major retailers like Target, Walmart, Amazon and others to end shipping pollution, specifically at the Port of Long Beach.

A number of climate-focused organizations were represented at the rally, including the Ship it Zero campaign, the Sierra Club, Pacific Environment, and East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice.

“Fossil fuel ship pollution in Long Beach has gotten so much worse over the pandemic,” said event organizer Dawny’all Heydari. “There have been over 100 fossil fuel ships idling off the shores of Long Beach, polluting Long Beach communities with asthma- and cancer-causing air pollutants.”

After their march to Target, the group conducted a simulated “die in” protest by lying down in front of the store entrance for eight minutes. That time frame signifies the roughly eight years of lower life expectancy for Long Beach residents living near the port and other sources of air pollution in West and North Long Beach, as laid out in the city’s 2019 Community Health Assessment.

A number of speakers at the event are West Long Beach natives, who spoke about their personal experiences with the air quality in their community.

“My family has always been an environmental one, doing beach cleanups in Seal Beach and Belmont Shore,” said Naya Shah, currently a student at CSULB. “Every year when I went as a kid, my dad would point out Catalina Island and the other islands off the coast and I would try to see them, but all I could see was this massive cloud of pollution, which I thought was fog.

“As a 10-year-old kid, I couldn’t do much, but now I’m here. And I’m hoping that we can actually make some sort of change, so that the kid in the next generation can actually see those islands a little clearer out in the ocean.”

There was also a heavy student turnout for the protest, both at the high school and college level. CSULB’s Environmental Science and Policy Club helped organize the event along with the Climate Action Team, and several high school students affiliated with Long Beach’s Green Schools Campaign were on hand as well.

The protest comes on the heels of a recent World Health Organization report that said upward of 7 million preventable deaths each year are caused by air pollution across the globe.