MADISON, Wis. - Thousands of people participated Saturday afternoon in Madison's version of the "March for Science," a worldwide protest movement aimed at promoting science-based public policy.
Organizers in more than 600 cities around the globe held rallies on Earth Day; Madison's march attracted 4,000-5,000 people, police said.
The march started at James Madison Park at about 12:30 p.m. and finished at Library Mall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. There, guest speakers, some affiliated with the university, spoke to the gathered crowd.
Police temporarily shut down city streets as protesters made their way to Library Mall.
Like its global sister marches, the event had strong political overtones. Many expressed concern over President Donald Trump's desire to slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, National Institutes of Health, and other federal scientific agencies.
"I'm really disappointed that scientific activities are being defunded and that truth is being devalued these days in our country," marcher Cailyn O'Connor said. "I think we need to come out and say 'that's not OK.'"
Messages on protesters' signs ranged from serious--like "Stand up for science," "Science matters" and "Climate change is real"--to humorous--like "What would Galileo do?!?!" or "No beer without science."
Many at Saturday's rally said they believed science itself was under attack.
"There's so much public distrust for science right now," marcher Cecilia Westbrook said. "It's disgusting. It's terrible."
The message at the protest was quite similar to that of January's Women's March; many in both marches urged more political participation.
"I think it's important to be here to encourage people to vote with reason as opposed to this gut-level nastiness that we see both in Washington and in Madison," marcher Blaine Wisniewski said.
In addition to the March for Science, environmentalists organized the "Madison Climate March," which started at the Capitol Saturday afternoon and ended at the headquarters of Madison Gas and Electric.
That event attracted about 2,500 people, Madison police said.
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