Sunrise Rallies Eugene Students

Fern #event #environment

Wide-angle shot of protesters

Over 200 members of the Eugene community gathered at Washburne Park on Friday, February 4th, to participate in a strike for intergenerational climate justice organized by Sunrise Eugene. More than 100 local middle and high school students walked out from their classrooms to join the march that began at South Eugene High School. Chants could be heard from blocks away as the group of young activists approached the park.

A large handheld sign reads “There is no planet B”

The park was set up with tabling and workshops meant to educate the young activists participating. Info tables were overwhelmed by the volume of attendees and did not facilitate the educational conversation organizers were hoping for. The speakers took center stage and ignited the crowd.

Guest speakers included Bailey Grebbin from Sunrise Eugene, South Eugene High School senior Sahara Valentine, Katie O’Mara representing the UO Student Workers Union & UOYDSA, and congressional candidate Doyle Canning. Each speaker made impassioned calls to action, rallying the audience to fight for a better future. “No matter what area of climate justice calls to you, no matter how much time and how many resources you have to offer, you are powerful and your help is essential,” said Valentine.

Wide-angle shot of a speech, taken from behind the speaker

The speaker section of the rally was derailed after Doyle Canning announced her plan to fight for climate justice in Congress. Canning seized the opportunity to call every member of the audience behind her in an attempt to demonstrate power in numbers. Once students filled out behind her, out came a large Doyle Canning banner. “Photographers, are you getting this?” Canning said. Later it was noticed that a reminder was scrawled on the back of her hand in black sharpie saying, PHOTO. Canning was there as a media stunt and co-opted a legitimate youth movement for her campaign. During conversations, youth expressed doubts about the effectiveness of Congress being able to mitigate the climate crisis, Canning agreed with expressive resignation. Why would youth elect someone who has no clear strategy for instating tangible federal-level solutions to the climate crisis? Unfortunately, Doyle Canning has been endorsed by Sunrise Eugene. An otherwise powerful youth rally was co-opted into a publicity event for a Democrat’s political campaign. This event shows a textbook example of why activists must exercise caution when endorsing politicians. Demonstrations often become destabilized and delegitimized by electoral propaganda hijacking the narrative and movement.