Over 100 people arrived at the steps of the Wayne L. Morse Federal Courthouse on Friday to protest inaction on combating climate change and advocate for systematic reform.
The event was directed by multiple environmental activist groups in Lane County, including the University of Oregon Climate Justice League, Cascadia Action Network, Sunrise Eugene, and high school and middle school students from the Eugene area.
“The global community is going to be affected, so we have to combat climate change,” said Cally Hutson, co-director for Cascadia Action Network. Hutson and Climate Justice League co-director Brendan Adamczyk explained that the day's event was only one part of a larger worldwide effort, as similar demonstrations occurred around the globe.
Around midday, protesters marched through the heart of the UO to the courthouse, accompanied by a brass band and escorted by police, while chanting and waving colorful banners.
The organizers said the protest, and the movement in general, are primarily driven by youth who are frustrated with a lack of progress in combating global warming.
“Youth are striking right now because we haven’t seen older generations taking the lead on this and creating the changes we need to have a safe future. It takes really clear action to push our governments to take climate action,” said Eloise Parish Mueller, a Cascadia organizer.
Among the demands being made by the activists are commitments to the Green New Deal, science-based policy decisions, reduction of carbon emissions, and an end to government subsidies for fossil fuels.
Protesters and several guest speakers expressed these demands passionately as they packed on the courthouse steps. Ian Curtis, a senior at South Eugene High School and executive director of lobbying group the Oregon Youth Legislative Initiative, stated the importance of youth involvement, as many of those attending the protest were on strike from school.
“The youth are rising up to change how government works,” said Curtis, “and we won't stop until we can stop climate change.”
Win Swafford was one Eugene community member who joined the protest, citing the need to save the earth for future generations.
“I believe that the youth may be able to save themselves,” said Swafford. “It's going to take a heroic effort, but youth can speak with a moral authority on this issue that adults have got to listen to.”
Going forward, Adamczyk said that while the movement in Eugene is still young, the goal is to apply more political pressure on Oregon's federal representatives to reject fossil fuel money, advocate for the Clean Energy Jobs bill in Salem, and to continue fighting for environmental protection in general.
“We've got a lot to debrief from this event, but we will see where we go from here,” Adamczyk said.
Gina Scalpone contributed reporting to this story.