PORTLAND, Ore. — Thousands of Portland Public Schools students walked out out of school Friday morning to make their voices heard on the issue of climate change.
Students taking part in the Global Climate Strike walkout marched to Terry Schrunk Plaza for a 10:30 a.m. rally. Students initially planned to march to City Hall, but changed the location due to construction in the area.
Just before noon, they started the walk across the Hawthorne Bridge to OMSI in Southeast Portland for the Climate Justice Festival.
Organizers told KGW that an estimated 20,000 people took part in the rally and march. KGW reached out to Portland police for their estimate and a spokesperson told us the bureau generally does not put out crowd size estimates and has no plans to release one on Friday.
KGW spoke to organizers Friday who said this is the most important social justice issue people can stand for. They are trying to make the issue resonate with more people by bringing much-needed awareness to it.
"There’s a united front of people - as you can see in Portland and as you can see across world today - which know and believe that climate change is real and directly affecting our right to a future," said one of the rally's organizers, Jaden Winn, a junior at Wilson High School. "This isn’t a believe or do not believe. It’s a fact and it’s a human crisis."
They're sending a message to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler to continue advancing climate justice in the city, and pushing state lawmakers to enact a clean energy jobs bill this legislative session. A bill capping carbon emissions did not make it through the Legislature this past session.
Students and young activists held up creative and powerful signs saying things like, "If you were smarter, we would be in school" and "Choose Eco, Not Ego".
They feel it's important to have youth voices in the conversation to push older generations and politicians to do more to prevent rising temperatures and melting ice caps.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown tweeted her support for all who were striking Friday, and said she is committed to taking bold action on climate change.
Earlier this week, PPS sent a letter to parents of middle and high schoolers, saying students will need to pre-arrange their absences Friday with their teachers, and will in turn receive an excused absence.
Parents of younger kids in K-5 will need to contact their schools directly to get an excused absence.
PPS students have walked out of class multiple times in recent years, for gun control and climate change.
However, four parents of PPS students filed a lawsuit earlier this year regarding a gun violence protest that occurred in March 2018. They say the district used public resources to promote outside interest groups and the “personal political preferences” of the school board and its teachers.
KGW has reported in the past about the rights of these students who walk out. According to the ACLU, the students still have First Amendment rights when they walk off school property.