BEND, Ore. - (Update: Adding video, comments from participants, organizer)
Thousands of Oregon students and their counterparts around the globe went on strike from school on Friday to protest inaction over climate change, including a group in Central Oregon that staged a midday rally on a downtown Bend street corner.
At noon, a group of Central Oregon students and their supporters gathered on Wall Street in Bend, growing to over 200 at the peak of the hour-long event, holding signs, listening to speeches and cheering the frequent honks from passing motorists on a warm, blue-sky Friday.
They said they were joining students all over the nation and world demanding change in policies that are harming the environment..
"I am here as a student, as a citizen, as a minor to share my voice, as I can't vote," Mt. View High School Daphnie Metcalf said. "To share my voice to local elected leaders to government officials that climate change and our environment is a very important subject that no matter what politics or whatever you believe, the Earth is the most important, because it's something we all live on. We all can't always agree on it, but we are hurting it, and we need to stop that."
They said in a statement before the protest they believe “political leaders in the United States and around the world have failed to prioritize—and in some cases even acknowledge—climate change.”
They said they believe the delay has brought a climate crisis and quoted the UN as saying there is only 11 years left to reverse the climate damage.
Before the strike they made three demands:
- Enact radical legislation to combat climate change on local and state levels in Oregon.
- Adopt the Green New Deal to shift our country to 100 percent clean, renewable, and net-zero emissions energy sources through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers.
- Declare the climate crisis a national emergency—because that’s what it is.
The students were joined by supporters of all ages.
"I'm here today because I want to support the kids I think the new generation coming up is the generation that's going to make a difference and is going to change the world," said Craig Jorgensen. "I want world for my kids and my grandkids and I think all the arguing we're doing is simply rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic if we don't deal with mother earth.
Fredrick Finney-Jordet, the organizer of the rally, told NewsChannel 21 what he hoped it would accomplish.
"Climate scientists across the world say this is true, and I think they are pretty trustworthy. It's honestly confusing why we haven't done something like this," Finney-Jordet said. "This is to hopefully awaken political representatives to the fact that this is real and happening and we need to do something about it, and get them to do that."
Finney-Jordet said he hopes this type of protest will become a regular event in Bend.
Other similar strikes were held in Coos Bay, Eugene and Gresham, as well as in downtown Portland and at Pacific University in Forest Grove.