Hundreds of protesters crowded all four corners of a busy downtown intersection in Bend on Friday afternoon, as they joined a global movement demanding that world governments fight climate change.
Rush hour commuters at Newport Avenue and Wall Street frequently honked at the rally, which drew about 600 to 700 people. The crowd let out a roar in response every time.
The protest was organized locally by Oregon Youth Climate Strike, which was joined by six other local progressive and environmental organizations, including Indivisible Bend, the Vocal Seniority and Sierra Club Oregon Chapter. Although the strike was led by teenagers, adults outnumbered the youths. There were also younger children in attendance.
Protesters held signs and banners with urgent statements, such as “There is no Planet B,” “Act now or swim later,” and “The earth is dying.” One sign compared rising temperatures to a famously attractive actor: “It’s getting hotter than Idris Elba.”
Some high school students said because of their young age, they felt like protesting was one of the few ways they could take a stand.
“It’s so scary and so frustrating, because I’m not able to vote in the next election,” said Bend High sophomore Teagan Perret, 15. “The one thing I have is to protest and help fund, because it’s my future that we’re talking about, our future.”
Zach Oubelqasse, a sophomore at Redmond Proficiency Academy, said the rapid development of climate change makes him “uneasy.”
“It feels like right now, I can’t do anything to change it,” said Oubelqasse, 15. “I kind of want to live past 70.”
Felix Cowan, a sophomore at Summit High School, was alarmed about how climate change could affect future generations.
“Even if it doesn’t affect me, it would affect my kids,” said Cowan, 16. “That would kind of suck really bad.”
Summit senior Ansley Duettra, 17, agreed.
“I want to take care of things before everything blows up in our faces,” she said.
The Oregon Youth Climate Strike group had multiple demands for the U.S. government and Oregon’s state government, according to a news release sent by Freddy Finney-Jordet, the 17-year-old Redmond Proficiency Academy senior who organized Friday’s event in Bend.
The group’s demands for the federal government include passing a Green New Deal to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050, declaring climate change a national emergency and stopping fossil fuel infrastructure projects. The group is asking Oregon to implement a carbon tax that would partially fund credits for low-income people and businesses, switching the state to 90% renewable energy by 2025 and making Oregon carbon-neutral by 2030, among other demands.
Craig Jorgensen, a member of the Vocal Seniority and Veterans of Central Oregon, said he hopes younger generations will help solve the climate crisis.
“The young people are the ones who are going to have to carry this,” Jorgensen, 74, said at the rally. “My generation has lost it.”
The Bend protest was one of many global climate rallies Friday inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.
Hundreds of thousands of people protested in countries around the world, such as Australia, Afghanistan, Poland, India and the United Kingdom, according to USA Today.
Teen protesters also walked out of schools in many major school districts Friday, like New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., the newspaper stated.
Two climate protests were held in the Pacific Northwest’s largest cities, with The Seattle Times reporting thousands gathering Friday for a march. Students marched through Portland’s downtown that morning, according to The Oregonian.
Mia Smith, 17, a senior at Summit who leads the high school’s environmental club, said she was excited by the large turnout of teens and adults.
“It’s really moving to see everyone come together on one topic,” she said.
But some teens said the worldwide movement was bittersweet, like Summit sophomore Ruby Sparks.
“It’s kind of cool that the whole world is stepping up to do this,” Sparks, 15, said. “But it’s also sad that we have to do this, and that the politicians aren’t listening to science and facts.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7854, firstname.lastname@example.org