Thousands turn out for March for Science in US cities

WASHINGTON, April 22 (Reuters) - Thousands of scientists and people from other walks of life turned out in Washington and New York on Saturday for Earth Day events that organizers have framed a "celebration" of science to counter a growing disregard for evidence-based knowledge.

March for Science, which includes "teach-ins" on the National Mall and parades in midtown Manhattan and hundreds of other cities and towns, is billed as non-partisan, aimed at reaffirming "the vital role science plays in our democracy," according to the march's website.

Even so, the marches were effectively protests against steep cuts that President Donald Trump has proposed for federal science and research budgets and his administration's skepticism about climate change and the need to slow global warming.

"It's important to show this administration that we care about facts," said Chris Taylor, 24, who was part of an early crowd of about 2,000 who gathered on the Mall for teach-ins on topics like climate change, water quality and sustainable food.

"It just seems like they're not really concerned about economic growth or creating new technologies, just catering to massive corporations," said Taylor, who is earning a PhD in robotics at George Mason University in Virginia.

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2017 March for Science around the world
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2017 March for Science around the world
Mary Devine of Levittown, Long Island looks on during the Earth Day 'March For Science NYC' demonstration to coincide with similar marches globally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., April 22, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Protesters line Central Park West during the Earth Day 'March For Science NYC' demonstration to coincide with similar marches globally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., April 22, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Demonstrators hold placards during the "March for Science Stockholm" manifestation at Medborgarplatsen square in Stockholm, Sweden April 22, 2107. TT News Agency/Marc Femenia/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. SWEDEN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SWEDEN
People with signs walk in Times Square during the March for Science on April 22, 2017 in New York. Thousands of people joined a global March for Science on Saturday with Washington the epicenter of a movement to fight back against what many see as an 'assault on facts' by populist politicians. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
People hold up signs during the March for Science April 22, 2017 in New York. Scientists and their supporters across the globe are expected to march in the thousands Saturday amid growing anxiety over what many see as a mounting political assault on facts and evidence. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
People hold up signs at a rally before the March for Science April 22, 2017 in New York. Scientists and their supporters across the globe are expected to march in the thousands Saturday amid growing anxiety over what many see as a mounting political assault on facts and evidence. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 22: Scientists and supporters gather on the National Mall for the rally before the March for Science on April 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. The event is being described as a call to support and safeguard the scientific community. (Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - 2017/04/22: Researchers and scientist protesting against budget cuts in science during the March for Science. (Photo by Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - 2017/04/22: Researchers and scientist protesting against budget cuts in science during the March for Science. (Photo by Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images)
People hold up signs at a rally before the march for Science April 22, 2017 in New York. Scientists and their supporters across the globe are expected to march in the thousands Saturday amid growing anxiety over what many see as a mounting political assault on facts and evidence. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 22: Gabrielle Walters, 21, poses for photographs in front of The White House before heading to the National Mall for the March for Science on April 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. Ms. Walters traveled from Florida with four college classmates who are all studying for a degree in Coastal Environmental Science. (Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)
A protestor holds a placard as scientists and science enthusiasts participate in the 'March for Science' which celebrates the scientific method, in Westminster, central London on April 22, 2017, Earth Day. Thousands of people rallied in support for science in Europe and Australasia on April 22, ahead of a march in Washington, triggered by rising concern over populism and so-called alternative facts. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman attends a 'March for Science', held worldwide, on April 22, 2017 in Vienna. The March for Science is a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments. / AFP PHOTO / APA / HANS PUNZ / Austria OUT (Photo credit should read HANS PUNZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Scientists and science enthusiasts gather prior to the start of the 'March for Science' which celebrates the scientific method outside the Science Museum in central London on April 22, 2017, Earth Day. Thousands of people rallied in support for science in Europe and Australasia on April 22, ahead of a march in Washington, triggered by rising concern over populism and so-called alternative facts. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - APRIL 22: People gather in front of Humboldt University in support of scientific research during the 'March for Science' demonstration on April 22, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. People all over the world are participating in 'March for Science' demonstrations to protest against the statements and polices of the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump that deride scientific facts deemed inconvenient for Trump's political agenda. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Scientists and science enthusiasts gather prior to the start of the 'March for Science' which celebrates the scientific method, outside the Science Museum in central London on April 22, 2017, Earth Day. Thousands of people rallied in support for science in Europe and Australasia on April 22, ahead of a march in Washington, triggered by rising concern over populism and so-called alternative facts. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
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March for Science is the latest in a series of national demonstrations that have been staged since Trump's inauguration nearly 100 days ago. Previous marches and protests have focused on a range of partisan issues, from abortion rights to immigration policy.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday's marches. However, in the past, Trump has said climate change was a hoax that was stifling policies to foster economic growth.

His administration is considering withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, a global accord aimed at reducing global emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Last year the United States, under President Barack Obama, joined more than 190 other countries in signing the pact.

Trump's proposed 2018 budget calls for deep spending cuts by government science agencies, including a 31 percent reduction for the Environmental Protection Agency.

March organizers are also worried by what they see as growing skepticism from politicians and others on topics such as vaccinations, genetically modified organisms and evolution.

The direct involvement by the scientific community in a national policy debate has stirred some criticism about whether scientists should get involved in politics. But organizers have defended the march as crucial because of the threat posed by discrediting scientific consensus and restricting research.

"As scientists, as human beings, our mandate is clear - it's to stand up for what we know to be true," said Kellan Baker, a senior fellow at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and one of the speakers on the National Mall.

That theme was echoed by many of those who showed up in Washington for teach-ins, which organizers said were a centerpiece of the initial Earth Day held in 1970 to call attention to the environment.

"Science isn't respected and it needs to be," said Sarah Binkow, 22, a civil engineer who traveled from Pontiac, Michigan, to attend the Washington rally.

"Being here definitely gives me hope that there's this overwhelming population that supports science and supports scientific theory," she said. (Additional reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington and Frank McGurty in New York; Writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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