Students from the Eugene/Springfield area led a strike through downtown Eugene as a part of the Global Climate Strike, a movement taking place in cities all over the world.
Although local public schools did not permit an excused absence for those attending, many students still showed up, filling the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza to demand action on climate change.
The students met at a few separate locations and brought creative signs and bright sunflower props to hold as they marched to the square. Climate activists of all ages came to support, a few holding tall banners that read “Let the youth be heard.” The crowd was about 500 people strong.
Annie Foshay participated in the strike with her 13-year-old daughter Ashley, despite the fact that Ashley’s middle school wasn’t giving out any excused absences for skipping. Ashley held a sign that read “There is no planet ‘B’” and her Mom accompanied her with one reading “Fossil fuel free future.”
“I feel like we need to do something now,” Ashley says. “It’s already too late but we have to fix it.”
Although her mother supported the strike, Ashley says many of her friends didn’t want to skip school today and stayed behind.
“I was proud that she was going to do it,” Foshay says. “Hopefully this changes people’s minds.”
Other students mentioned that although they were skipping school, they had full support from teachers to participate.
In the square, live music played in the background as people gathered closer, standing shoulder to shoulder. At around 1 pm, high school students began giving speeches.
One of the first students to speak was 17-year-old Patrick Walker. He stood in front of the crowd and started by thanking those who came, specifically shouting out to students who skipped school to be there.
“Our purpose today is to make demands to the officials calling the shots,” Walker says to the crowd as they cheered. He shouted into the microphone,“This is what democracy looks like.”
The demands Walker listed included reshaping the fossil fuel industry by taking political money out of it and, support for the national Green New Deal and Oregon New Deal as well as the development of climate justice curriculum into schools.
While the rally continued, others stood along the edge of the Park Blocks waving at cars driving through and pedestrians walking by.
One woman, Debra George, stood on the side and waved a bright yellow climate change strike paper. At 67 years old, George says she came to support students and has been involved in social activism since 1970. This was her first climate change rally and she hopes the physical presence of strikers show the leaders that people want change.
“It’s gonna be their world,” George says. “I’ve done my share, the baton goes to them.”