Thousands of students marched through Portland Friday as part of the international strike against climate change.
Students demonstrated outside Portland City Hall, coming from schools all over the city. From there, students walked across the Willamette River to OMSI for what organizers called a “festival.”
“I want to do anything I can as a 16-year-old to help make the change now before it’s too late,” Madison High School junior Miles Anderson said.
Previous student marches have intentionally excluded adults from the effort, but for Friday’s “strike,” student organizers reached out to parents and other community members to offer support.
Students are speaking out against fossil fuels, such as the Zenith Energy project in Portland. Some called for stronger regulations on industry and more consideration for marginalized communities.
“The biggest thing I would like to see changed is from big corporations, but especially from Zenith Energy and the oil tanks they are constantly bringing into Portland through the cities,” Lincoln High School senior Aliya Peek said.
Students also pushed for climate change to be more of a priority in their classrooms, through a focus of science curriculum, for instance.
Phoebe Kemp is a senior at Lincoln High School in Portland. As part of an environmental justice class in school, she wants all students to have the same opportunity.
“We’re learning math, we’re learning science, we’re learning history, but we’re not learning what’s truly important which is about our environment,” Kemp said. “I think it needs to be a curriculum implemented in every school.”
A group of students presented a list of demands to Mayor Ted Wheeler’s staff. Students couldn’t get inside City Hall, because it was closed in response to the throngs who showed up to the downtown building as part of the march.
According to Sunrise Movement PDX, Wheeler’s office responded to a meeting request with an invitation to meet Thursday night, the night before the Climate Strike.
Youth organizer and Grant High School senior Ella Shriner helped create the list of demands. She spoke at Friday’s rally in front of City Hall, and called the last-minute meeting invitation “completely unacceptable.”
“We’re all out here organizing and building for this movement,” she said.
The Portland Police Bureau said there were three arrests made related to the climate events, one adult and two juveniles.
For past protests, officials at Portland Public Schools have given mixed messages about student participation, or explicitly told students that they should be in class, rather than marching in the streets. For Friday’s action, PPS was more tolerant, saying that students could get an “excused absence” for participating in the protest, so long as families communicated with schools about what their students were doing.
West Linn High School junior Matilda Milner held a sign with an illustration of the Lorax, from Dr. Seuss.
“Our generation feels ignored. This is our future, this is our health, this is our safety,” Milner said. “We’re running out of time and we’re running out of resources, and we’re running out of options. So I think we need to force radical change through whether it’s the easiest option or not.”