Climate March Draws Huge Crowd Downtown

Did you drive to the Eugene People’s Climate March? That’s one of the questions being hotly debated in web comments and listserv discussions following the climate rally and march in Eugene Sunday, Sept. 21, corresponding with rallies in New York City and in 130 countries around the world. Some Eugeneans even flew to New York for the massive march there.

New York’s march, two days before world leaders converged there for a United Nations Climate Summit, drew an estimated 310,000 to 400,000 people, making it the largest climate rally in history. On Monday, Sept. 22, a much smaller group of about 3,000 protesters participated in “Flood Wall Street” to call attention to the financial mecca’s culpability in global warming. More than 100 people were arrested.

In Eugene Sunday, not many people arrived by car. Bicycles were everywhere and empty parking spaces could be found only a block away from the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza, despite a crowd estimate at 400 to 500. The debate over the irony of driving to a climate march reflected the divergence of views expressed. Some speakers called for individual lifestyle choices to combat climate change while others called for reforming policy at the local, state, national and global levels.

Several speakers, including the poet Plaedo, expressed frustration at the prevailing power of business, industry and the military to maintain the status quo. He called for the people to rise up and demand climate justice. Signs were carried at the rally representing indigenous rights, labor unions, green energy, Occupy Eugene and the anti-war movement. Several groups from southern Oregon were represented.

“It’s time for leaders at all levels to address the climate crisis, for the survival of the human race,” said one of the organizers, Shelley Pineo-Jensen.

Zach Muholland, an organizer with 350 Oregon, said, “We must act now to protect the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink. We should work to mitigate the worst impacts on people by making polluters pay and putting a cost on carbon.”

City officials also spoke at the rally before the march. Mayor Kitty Piercy talked about what the city is doing, and should be doing, to mitigate climate change, not only locally but also as an example for other cities around the country. Councilor Alan Zelenka talked about how investing in climate solutions pays off economically. County Commissioner Pete Sorenson joined the crowd and march.

“I liked the mix in ages and the enthusiasm of the crowd as we chanted, as we marched through downtown,” Michael Carrigan of CALC said after the march. “The mayor gave one her most passionate speeches. It’s clear she wants Eugene to take climate change head on.”

Dozens of others were involved in the event, including Mary DeMocker, Tsion Kirtner, Jacyln Bovee, Alejandro Garcia Rendon Laureano, Diana Corbin, Hazel Van Ummersen, Elizabeth Brown, John Pitney, Jack Dresser, Sabrina Siegel, Alan Journet, Camilla Thorndike, Valerie Jahns, the Raging Grannies and Eugene Peace Choir.