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March for Science attracts thousands to downtown Denver

DENVER -- Crowds of people marched Saturday in the United States and around the world in support of science and evidence-based research in a protest fueled by opposition to President Donald Trump's environmental and energy policies.

Besides the main march in Washington, organizers said more than 600 satellite marches were due to take place globally in a protest timed to coincide with Earth Day.

A crowd of about 8,000 gathered in downtown Denver for activities in Civic Center Park.

"Federal funding for science is very important for educating the next generation of scientists and science saves lives and keeps America strong," said Rachel Friedman, a stem cell lab researcher at National Jewish Medical Center in Denver.

They began the day with a march that started and ended in the park.

"There is a anti-science sentiment in terms of informing policy decisions and in terms of cutting funding for science," said Charlotte Alster, who is studying soil ecology at Colorado State University.

The march, whose beginnings reflect the viral birth of the Women's March on Washington, has been billed by its organizers as political but nonpartisan.

"Science is being discredited in a lot of ways and I want to remind people that science is for everyone that the reason we do what we do is improve lives," said Kristen Barthel, a University of Colorado Boulder researcher at the Leinward Lab.

The event's website describes it as "the first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies and governments."

"I think there has been a declining sense of what science means to progress. I think we take so much for granted," march honorary co-chair Lydia Villa-Komaroff said ahead of the event.

Demonstrators in Australia kicked off the day of protest.

In Sydney, marchers carried banners, many homemade, with slogans such as "Science makes sense," "Science-based policy = stuff that works," and "Climate change is real, clean coal is not."

Another placard displayed the message, "Governments: stop ignoring inconvenient science!"

Chant for evidence-based science

It wasn't only major cities where scientists and their supporters came out.

Rebecca McElroy, an astrophysics doctoral student at the University of Sydney, tweeted video of a "mini march for science" around the dome of the Anglo-Australian Telescope in New South Wales.

Demonstrators also turned out in New Zealand cities, including Wellington, Auckland, Dunedin and Christchurch. Marches were also held in Durban and Cape Town, South Africa, and in Tokyo.

'Broader vision'

Scientists and their supporters were urged to turn out in force in London as well as other marches in France, Ireland, Finland, Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands.

David Johnson, 35, a doctoral student in London, said he was marching because he felt climate change was being sidelined by the U.S. administration and that science was being demonized.

Another London marcher, 24-year-old student Rachel Denley Bowers, said science was important and that budget cuts affected research.

Roger Morris, professor of molecular neurobiology at King's College London, said: "These marches are brilliant -- a spontaneous, global response led by young scientists empowered by social media, keenly aware of the global challenges that need to be addressed if their world is to have a civilized, sustainable future.

"Insular populist politics, which have temporarily triumphed in the U.S. and U.K., need to be balanced by the broader vision of youth."

Katherine Mathieson, chief executive of the British Science Association, said she hoped the marches would be a catalyst for people to think about the role science plays in their lives and a chance for scientists to demonstrate the public benefit of their work.

"Protecting the government's investment in science, particularly when that includes funding for public engagement, is incredibly important," she said.

"Science is not just for scientists, and I believe that all of us, whether we work in a lab or not, should have a voice on its future."

Trump's budget proposal, unveiled in March, outlined $54 billion in cuts across government programs to make way for an increase in defense spending.

U.S. scientists said they fear such a plan would have a major impact on research and science-based policy as well as undermine the importance of science in society and limit future innovation.

"It might have been ignited by Trump, but it's not about Trump," Villa-Komaroff said. "It's about the importance of science in society and continuing the support for the science community in keeping our edge."