Youth activists led a climate strike rally Friday in downtown Portland, demanding action from city leaders and recognition of the impacts facing Pacific Islanders and members of other Indigenous communities.
Students from high schools around Portland rallied together in what was the second youth climate strike this school year.
Nani Santer is a junior at Roosevelt High School, a Pacific Islander, and one of the rally’s organizers.
“We’re out here fighting for not just our islands but also the Indigenous people and their homelands that are being taken away and we are also here to show support to the islands that are going down,” Santer said.
The Pacific Islands are considered among the world’s most vulnerable places. As the burning of fossil fuels like coal and gasoline continue to warm the planet, sea levels are rising and storms are becoming more extreme.
A recent report by a United Nations climate panel said sea ice and glaciers are melting faster than previously thought, making problems worse for some island nations. Some could become uninhabitable, according to the panel.
Another Roosevelt High School student, senior Kaiya LaGuardia-Yonamine said this strike is a continuation of students’ direct action that led to a school strike in September.
“Frontline communities, frontline Indigenous communities are the ones at the center of every single thing that we do today,” Laguardia-Yonamine said. “That includes our rally, that includes our march, that includes talking to the commissioners and the mayor and giving our demands to them.”
The rally began at Shemanski Park, where several students from the Pacific Islands and other Indigenous communities shared stories of how climate change is affecting their homelands.
Hundreds of people of all ages then marched down Southwest Salmon Street towards Terry Schrunk Park, where the student activists once again read out their list of demands to city leaders.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was the only city leader in attendance.
“It was very important for me to be here, to hear what these young people are saying and what they’re asking for,” Wheeler said. “It was obvious to me these are well thought-out concerns, well thought-out demands, well thought-out action steps.”
Portland Police blocked streets and escorted the march down to the Terry Schrunk Plaza.
“We are continuing to organize, we will not stop organizing until our demands are met and until we see actual physical proof and action of our own city and around the world,” LaGuardia-Yonamine said.