Street Roots: Young Climate Activists to Host Portland Town Hall

Merkley, Blumenauer will be among speakers at the Sunrise Movement PDX event, aimed at bringing the community together around climate action 

by Emily Green | 31 May 2019

Since launching in March, Sunrise Movement PDX has grown to more than 300 members and is gearing up for its first large-scale event later this month.

Organizers are inviting the public – and especially young people – to attend its Green New Deal Town Hall from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday, June 16, at The Old Church Concert Hall. Tickets are available on Eventbrite for a suggested donation of $10. 

“This is our big moment to show up in Portland,” said organizer Maddie Maschger, 24, co-coordinator of the Portland chapter of Sunrise Movement’s Green New Deal Team. 

Twelve young climate activists from various states formed the Sunrise Movement in 2017 with the goal of creating an army of young people aimed at solving the climate crisis while creating millions of green jobs. Today there are about 200 chapters across the U.S. and its territories, including three chapters in Oregon.

The Portland chapter’s town hall will kick off with a short video from U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) that imagines the United States in a future scenario where the Green New Deal has already been adopted and climate action is underway. The screening will be followed by onsite speeches from Oregon Rep. Tawna Sanchez (D-Portland) and local activists Sarah Iannarone and Antonio Zamora. 

Next, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) and Janaira Ramirez, an organizer with OPAL and the Oregon Just Transition Alliance, will give “Ted-style” talks that illuminate a path toward climate action and justice. As of press time, other speakers for the town hall were still being confirmed.

“We believe it is essential to center frontline communities and voices in this fight, so many of our speakers who are sharing their vision for a livable and equitable future are activists and members of these communities themselves,” Maschger said.

Throughout the event, young leaders from Sunrise Movement PDX will lead the audience through motivating and action-oriented activities aimed at building connection among audience members. 

“Organizers and activists – especially in the age of Trump – we’re spending so much time saying no to things. No to jailing children at the border, no to the erosion of LGBTQ rights, and no to the decimation of the EPA, no to the fossil fuel industry and selling off of our public lands,” said Sunrise Movement PDX organizer Suzie Kassouf, 29, who also co-coordinates the Green New Deal Team. “Our town hall is our opportunity to say ‘Yes’ in this really big way, and to show the kind of world that we know is possible.”

Most members of Sunrise Movement PDX range in age from 13 to 35, but there are also older, “young at heart” members. However, older members cannot hold leadership positions, Kassouf said. 

Also this month, Sunrise Movement PDX is taking part in Pedalpalooza with a climate rally and ride that will begin at Southwest Park Avenue and Montgomery Street at 11 a.m. Sunday, June 9. From there, activists will bike to the Zenith Oil Terminal in Northwest Portland for a dance party and rally. Members of the public are invited to join.

Sunrise Movement PDX has also been putting pressure on Metro to modify its 2020 transportation-funding ballot measure to include provisions that allocate funds raised toward a Green New Deal for Oregon rather than increased investments in fossil fuel-related infrastructure.

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