by Clara McAuley
Protests, Arrests, and Action at OES.
(Pictured above are students at the Climate Strike, p.c. Eric Elmore for Street Roots).
In my last article, “So What’s the Deal with the Climate Strike?” I discussed the Green New Deal and what the people participating in the strike were asking for. But now, after the Climate Strike has happened, I want to go into the events of it.
Thousands of Portlandians attended the youth activist – led climate strike, and OES students were among them. People carried signs with phrases like “There is no planet B!” and “If you did your job, we would be in school!” Sydney R., ‘20 went to the Climate Strike, and says that it was long overdue. “This movement should have started 20 years ago,” she tells me. “But now it is up to the younger generation—this is our last shot to save the planet.” Sydney also says that there were people with a lot of varying beliefs about solutions and concerns regarding climate change at the strike, like “hardcore vegans” and people fighting animal extinction. “But it was amazing to see people with all these different beliefs come together, even if they didn’t all agree,” she adds.
The young people taking part in the Climate Strike were unafraid to show what they cared about, even when the Portland Police became aggressive. Their aggressiveness was recorded in two videos of arrests that went viral and angered people all around Portland. The videos showed several police officers shoving through a group of protesting white teenagers to reach two black students, who were roughly and forcefully removed from the group. One of the two students was arrested for blocking traffic, as was another who tried to stop the officers. Sydney tells me she saw the teens standing on the bridge, seeming to, indeed, be blocking traffic, but that “they weren’t doing anything that they deserved to be forcefully arrested for”. Soon after the release of the videos, accusations of racism, unnecessary force, and statements condemning the officers poured in. Meanwhile, the protesters, angry and even more defiant, marched on.
Now, in the aftermath of the Climate Strike, it is time to ask “what next?” In fact, OES and the Upper School Policy Board are asking the very same question. Arun S., ‘23, one of the Freshman policy board reps, tells me that Policy Board is “considering finding a way to hold the school accountable for their sustainability goals.” The sustainability goals might entail meat-free lunch days, an “OES sustainability page,” solar panels, and not throwing away any compost. “Another one of our [policy board’s] ideas is to install separate electric and gas meters throughout the school,” says Arun. “Every building except Farris Hall and the Lower school have the same gas and electricity meters.” He explains to me that it makes it impossible to track the gas and electric usage of seperate buildings (to know which buildings need to decrease how much they use). Not only is Policy Board brainstorming ways to reduce our contribution to climate change, but OES’ CIA group has held a meeting about climate change, and many teachers have also discussed it in classes.
As youth fight for a better world and students work to improve their school’s energy use, there seems to still be hope. As Sydney puts it, “seeing thousands of people in our city protesting makes me think maybe our generation isn’t doomed”. And there is still hope. But in the words of youth activist, Greta Thunberg, “I don’t want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic.” And so we are panicking, and we are fighting. As Sydney said to me, “I hope that the movement grows, and that the world just gets on the same page about this because we are literally facing an apocalypse – and that is the truth of it.”
Campuzano, Eder. “Thousands turn out in Portland, demand greener climate policies during student-led protest.” The Oregonian, 20 Sept. 2019, www.oregonlive.com/portland/2019/09/thousands-turn-out-in-portland-demand-greener-climate-policies-during-student-led-protest.html. Accessed 3 Oct. 2019.
Green, Aimee. “Amid public cries of racism and police brutality, Portland police chief and community leaders address arrests of 2 teens.” The Oregonian, 25 Sept. 2019, https://www.oregonlive.com/news/2019/09/amid-public-cries-of-racism-and-police-brutality-portland-police-chief-and-community-leaders-address-arrests-of-2-teens.html. Accessed 3 Oct. 2019.
Jaquiss, Nigel. “City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty Blasts Portland Police Actions at Friday Climate Rally.” Willamette Week, 23 Sept. 2019, www.wweek.com/news/city/2019/09/23/city-commissioner-jo-ann-hardesty-blasts-portland-police-actions-at-friday-climate-rally/. Accessed 3 Oct. 2019.
Mesh, Aaron. “Forceful Arrest of Student Climate Protesters Draws Condemnation From Portland Civic Leaders.” Willamette Week, 22 Sept. 2019, www.wweek.com/news/courts/2019/09/22/forceful-arrest-of-student-climate-protesters-draws-condemnation-from-portland-civic-leaders/. Accessed 3 Oct. 2019.