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'We're fighting for our futures': Thousands of Portland teens walk out, demanding action on climate change

"I think people need to be held accountable and need to realize that this is going to affect a lot of people’s futures," said Sam, a senior at Cleveland High School.

PORTLAND, Ore — Thousands of Portland teens walked out of class Friday, demanding local lawmakers do more about climate change. 

“We’re fighting for our futures," said Grant High School sophomore Adah Crandell. She's a member of Portland's Youth Climate Strike (PYCS) and one of the many who marched from the Oregon Convention Center to Portland City Hall.

The organization was formed last year to create a focused climate justice effort in Portland. PYCS was the main organizer of this event but with numbers in the thousands Friday afternoon at city hall, it's clear there are many other students and climate justice organizers involved.

High schools from all over the city were represented. KGW spoke to several students from Lincoln, Grant, McDaniel and others.  

"I think people need to be held accountable and need to realize that this is going to affect a lot of people’s futures," said Sam, a senior at Cleveland. "And they need to start standing up and realizing that this is a very major issue."

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With the large crowd swelling into the streets, organizers spoke and delivered their wide ranging demands for more aggressive actions on climate policy and climate justice.

For Adah Crandall, it's a very personal fight. Growing up a student at Harriet Tubman Middle School, adjacent to I-5, she was active in the push to eliminate "dirty diesel" after witnessing several classmates battle regular asthma attacks.

"It’s so sad that we live in a world that's so broken, that teenagers have to walk out of school to demand a livable future," Crandell said. "If you’re an adult at home watching this, if you see all of these youth in the street, I don’t want you to just tell us you’re inspired, I want you to take action and I want you to join us.”

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And some did, like Lorene Scheer, a grandmother of two, who joined the crowd Friday. 

“I’ll follow their lead on anything," said Scheer. "They have the vitality, the wits about them to really figure out what we’re gonna do to turn this system around for people and not for profit."

Portland Public Schools said in a statement they are supportive of the student’s climate activism and that Friday's absence would be excused provided a note from parents and arrangements made with teachers to make up missed work.

Chris McGinness is a meteorologist and transportation reporter for KGW. Got a story idea or a great photo you want to share? Email him at cmcginness@kgw.com or reach out on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.