PORTLAND — Thousands of students marched through Portland Friday as part of the international strike against climate change.
Students demonstrated outside Portland City Hall, coming from schools all over the city. From there, students walked across the Willamette River to OMSI for what organizers called a “festival.”
“I want to do anything I can as a 16-year-old to help make the change now before it’s too late,” Madison High School junior Miles Anderson said.
Previous student marches have intentionally excluded adults from the effort, but for Friday’s “strike,” student organizers reached out to parents and other community members to offer support.
Students are speaking out against fossil fuels, such as the Zenith Energy project in Portland. Some called for stronger regulations on industry and more consideration for marginalized communities.
“The biggest thing I would like to see changed is from big corporations, but especially from Zenith Energy and the oil tanks they are constantly bringing into Portland through the cities,” Lincoln High School senior Aliya Peek said.
Students also pushed for climate change to be more of a priority in their classrooms, through a focus of science curriculum, for instance.
Phoebe Kemp is a senior at Lincoln High School in Portland. As part of an environmental justice class in school, she wants all students to have the same opportunity.
“We’re learning math, we’re learning science, we’re learning history, but we’re not learning what’s truly important which is about our environment,” Kemp said. “I think it needs to be a curriculum implemented in every school.”
A group of students presented a list of demands to Mayor Ted Wheeler’s staff. Students couldn’t get inside City Hall, because it was closed in response to the throngs who showed up to the downtown building as part of the march.
According to Sunrise Movement PDX, Wheeler’s office responded to a meeting request with an invitation to meet Thursday night, the night before the Climate Strike.
Youth organizer and Grant High School senior Ella Shriner helped create the list of demands. She spoke at Friday’s rally in front of City Hall, and called the last-minute meeting invitation “completely unacceptable.”
“We’re all out here organizing and building for this movement,” she said.
The Portland Police Bureau said there were three arrests made related to the climate events, one adult and two juveniles.
For past protests, officials at Portland Public Schools have given mixed messages about student participation, or explicitly told students that they should be in class, rather than marching in the streets. For Friday’s action, PPS was more tolerant, saying that students could get an “excused absence” for participating in the protest, so long as families communicated with schools about what their students were doing.
West Linn High School junior Matilda Milner held a sign with an illustration of the Lorax, from Dr. Seuss.
“Our generation feels ignored. This is our future, this is our health, this is our safety,” Milner said. “We’re running out of time and we’re running out of resources, and we’re running out of options. So I think we need to force radical change through whether it’s the easiest option or not.”
Two additional applicants filed for the interim Douglas County Clerk position by the Friday deadline. Both currently work in the Douglas County Clerk’s Office.
Rosemarie Wess is currently the chief deputy clerk and had been selected by outgoing Douglas County Clerk Patricia Hitt as her choice to step into the interim role. Andrew Taylor is the office manager in the Clerk’s Office.
They join former Douglas County commissioner candidate Dan Loomis to make three candidates for the post.
Voters will select a permanent replacement in 2020, but the interim clerk will hold the position until the winner of that election takes office in January 2021.
Loomis is the only one of the three who has filed to run in the 2020 election, but candidates have until March 10 to file.
Taylor said he’s considering filing for the election, while Wess said she does not intend to run for election.
As chief deputy clerk, Wess has stepped into the clerk’s duties periodically since 2015 whenever the clerk was absent.
“I am interested in the position, I have firsthand knowledge of the position, and I’d like the opportunity to perform it officially,” Wess said.
Wess started working for the county in 2000. She analyzed data and served as a supervisor for the Douglas County Health Department. She is also a former human resources director for the county. She joined the Clerk’s Office after the Health Department closed.
Prior to joining the county, Wess worked for MCI WorldCom in Texas as a network engineer. Before that she worked as a contractor for NASA, testing satellite communication software.
It was an exciting time, she said, but she was happy to leave that life for Roseburg. She started out here buying a heating and air-conditioning business.
“We wanted to go to a quieter less stressful life than we had in Texas,” she said.
She said Roseburg is also beautiful.
“I’m very happy here,” she said.
Wess said she doesn’t want to run in the election because she wants to focus on her volunteer work.
“Basically I volunteer for several nonprofit organizations in the community, and I would like to be able to do more of that support, provide more support to these groups while I still have my health,” she said.
Wess volunteers for Friends of Umpqua Valley Police K9 Programs, the Umpqua Valley Humane Society and the For the Love of Paws veterinary clinic.
Taylor has worked in the Clerk’s Office for 3.5 years and has worked in records much longer. His previous work was in medical records. Like Wess, Taylor previously worked for the Health Department. He started there as a medical records lead in 2013.
Prior to that he worked in the medical records department of Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. He moved to Roseburg after his daughter graduated from high school to be closer to family in his hometown of Coos Bay.
“I made the transition from private and confidential records to public records,” he said.
He said it doesn’t feel weird to run against Wess, even though she hired him from Alaska and has been his mentor.
Taylor said he would like to increase outreach and education to the public. He’d like to make sure that voters understand things like the fact that individuals serving on special district boards are volunteers, not paid for their efforts. He’d also like more people to understand that they need to inform the Clerk’s Office about changes in their lives, such as moving to a different address or having a stroke that affects their signature.
“We get a lot of voter questions and misinformation. I want to make sure that proper information is getting out there,” he said.
Taylor enjoys woodworking and is a Master Gardener, which he said is a great way to connect with the community. He has two gardens, one in Douglas County and one in Coos Bay. “I’m constantly running between the two, managing both gardens and madly canning as I go,” he said.
The interim clerk will be chosen by the Douglas County Board of Commissioners. The candidates are slated to be interviewed in a public meeting at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday in Room 216 of the Douglas County Courthouse, 1036 SE Douglas Ave., Roseburg. Public comment will be taken.
An appointment is expected to be made Oct. 2.
Hitt announced in August that she would step down at the end of this month, before her term was ended, in order to spend more time with family.
About 150 protesters stood on the sidewalk outside Fred Meyer on Northwest Garden Valley Boulevard on Friday to call for action on climate change. Climate strikes were being held around the country the same day.
Many carried signs to convey their message. Jim Fasig of Roseburg bore a sign with a picture of an iceberg sculpted with the president’s face. It said “No one is safe from Global Warming. What’s the solution? Stop pollution.”
His wife Ann Fasig carried a sign saying “The Oceans are Rising and So Are We, Against Global Warming.”
Ann Fasig said it felt good to bring publicity to the problem.
“If we don’t do something, it’s going to be all over. It’s so sad,” she said.
Sam Cohan, a Roseburg seventh grader, is more mad than sad and wants adults to stop burning fossil fuels.
“It’s going to affect my generation more than any other. It sucks,” Sam said.
Nearly everyone at the local event was an adult, unlike the youth-led strikes happening in many cities Friday. But the adults still had a lot to say.
Kate Bright of Sutherlin said she doesn’t usually participate in protests like this one.
“I’m not normally a joiner, but I feel passionate about saving our earth. I feel like this is something worth doing,” Bright said.
She thought the turnout Friday was pretty good.
“I wish it were bigger, of course. I wish half of Roseburg were here, but this is pretty good. It’s a good start,” she said.
Carl Dunlap of Azalea said he had a message for politicians.
“The people that vote are paying attention to what the youth are leading us forward with. It’s a very important problem, and there’s just too many people in power that are climate deniers,” Dunlap said.
He said Texas floods and other events show that climate change is increasingly a problem.
Bob Allen of Roseburg said he just finished reading a book called ‘The Uninhabitable Earth,’ and it was frightening. Miserable decades could lie ahead for humans and they might not survive, he said.
“I’ve got grandkids. I see what they’re dealing with and what they’re thinking about. They’re on the streets today in Portland. What are they going to face? And they’ll say what did we do?” he said.
Stuart Liebowitz of the Douglas County Global Warming Coalition, which helped organize Friday’s protest, said climate change is the issue of our time.
“There are millions of people across the globe as well as the United States who understand that we have a very limited time to turn this around. Science tells us we have about 11 years to avoid a climate catastrophe and with the wildfires growing hotter here in Oregon, we are experiencing climate change in our own backyard,” he said.
“So we are here to show solidarity with everybody around the world who understand now’s the time to take action,” he said.
Other groups joining in the protest included Umpqua Watersheds, the League of Women Voters of Umpqua Valley, Indivisible Roseburg and Veterans for Peace.
Virginia Roth, with Indivisible Roseburg, said the country is going down the tubes and she wants it fixed.
“We’re out here for change, and to stop what’s going on in our government so we could have change. ‘Cause too many people are burying their heads like ostriches,” she said.
She said she feels like crying when she thinks about the impact climate change could have on her children and grandchildren.
“We won’t be here forever, but they have their young lives to live and we want them to have as good a climate as we had when we were growing up as kids,” she said.
League of Women Voters of Umpqua Valley President Jenny Carloni said in a written statement that the League is calling on people to “inform themselves and vote in support of candidates and policies that will replace fossil fuel subsidies with investment in alternative energy, research, and training for jobs in the carbon-neutral economy of the future.”
“The present climate crisis demands that our government take bold action, soon, to limit our nation’s CO2 emissions and help the world begin to decrease global warming,” she said.