On Friday, May 20 at 11 a.m., students from Portland State and local high schools, along with other concerned community members, gathered at City Hall to protest the lack of climate action taken on local and federal levels.
The strike was mainly organized by high school students from various Portland High Schools—and hundreds were in attendance thanks to their efforts. Portland Public Schools had sent out information to students and parents about the strike, foreshadowing a large turnout from the student body as well as the larger Portland community. Flyers detailing the event were also placed throughout the city and around PSU’s campus.
“I think it’s really time for us to unite and to come together as an entire city and [as] an entire global community to come against the climate crisis,” said junior Jacob Glass of Ida B. Wells High School, in an interview with KGW.
The purpose of the strike is to toughen the pressure on government officials to demand progress be made concerning climate change mitigation. Strengthening renewable energy, cutting harmful emissions, creating reparations for communities disproportionately affected by climate change and providing a sense of urgency are some focuses of the strike.
“The people most directly impacted by an issue should be the ones shaping the solutions, and youth are clearly an important voice in policy making,” said Khanh Pham, Oregon House Representative for District 46 (NE/SE Portland). “I would support lowering the voting age to 16 [because they are] old enough to be impacted by gun violence and by all the other issues like the climate crisis, so they need to be able to have a voice in electing officials that are going to be accountable and responsive to their needs.”
Another goal outlined by Glass, as well as co-lead Adah Crandall of Grant High School, is to emphasize the importance of adults in the fight against climate change.
“Calling youth inspiring is not enough,” Crandall said. “Young people are powerful, but young people cannot win this fight on their own.”
Halting ODOT’s freeway expansion, divesting from companies like Boeing and Wells Fargo and returning land to Indigenous First Nations are some of the concrete demands of the strike. Youth in attendance were passionate about collective action and mutual support, as well.
“We will not let capitalism, corporations and politicians destroy us and our environment because we have a planet to defend,” said Danny Cage, Portland Public Schools Policy Committee member and Grant High School student. “We stand with all movements—from Indigenous people protesting pipelines, working to protect their land, [to] the Land Back movement here in America and all nations. And recognize the climate crisis did not start with corporations burning oil—it started with colonialism and capitalism; it started with stolen people on stolen land.”