MONTPELIER — Activists are planning a 48-hour encampment at the State House next week to challenge political and civic leaders to do more to combat climate change.
Scheduled for Oct. 17 to 19, the Extinction Rebellion Vermont action was conceived by Carmen Richardson-Skinder, a 15-year-old student at Montpelier High School. The encampment is happening as part of three weeks of global action by Extinction Rebellion.
Titled Climate Encampment: Youth, Migration and Agriculture, the Montpelier event is expected to attract about 200 people to camp out on the State House lawn, beginning at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17 and ending at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19. Students are expected to take part in another Youth Climate Strike on Friday, Oct. 18, when students skip school to protest.
“Young people understand that our futures are at stake and are working toward a just transition away from fossil fuels that includes a focus on frontline communities including immigrants,” Richardson-Skinder said in her detailed proposal. “We need to create local food systems in our communities to address food and economic security for those who live here and for those who are seeking refuge.”
Richardson-Skinder said the action would involve two days of living on the State House lawn, bringing in livestock, local plants and food; inviting speakers to talk about regenerative agriculture, migration and community resilience; and using civil disobedience to demand a just transition and an end to fossil fuels.
“This is a disruptive action in which we take over a space reserved for a government that has not yet listened to our demand for a livable future,” she said. She also listed a number of demands in her proposal. They included that the government “must tell the truth” about the many dangers of climate change; reverse policies that do not combat climate change and tell individuals, communities and businesses what they need to do to respond to the crisis.
Richardson-Skinder’s mother, Jennifer, and brother, Asa — a Middlebury College student — said support for the event was growing with more organizations and interfaith groups offering food and logistical help.
Jennifer Skinder said that the climate strike movement was entering a new phase. “We’re sending a message that we’re not asking the government to declare a climate emergency – we are declaring a climate emergency,” she said. “So, we’re thinking very strategically and increasing our numbers and increasing our presence.”
Asa Skinder said next week’s event was part of a two-week campaign by Extinction Rebellion worldwide, that included shutting down the financial district in New York City and central London and taking control of a bridge in Quebec, Canada, this week. “So next week’s event is going to be Vermont’s version of that,” he said.
In Montpelier, there already have been four student climate change protests that disrupted activities in the city this year. Two by Extinction Rebellion Vermont included the forced temporary adjournment of the Legislature during a protest in the House on May 16 and shutting down traffic on State Street to disrupt a meeting of the Public Utilities Commission that was considering a petition by a Canadian company to buy the public shares of Vermont Gas Systems and Green Mountain Power on July 23. On Aug. 3, Uprise Youth Action Camp blocking the State and Main streets intersection for about an hour. The most recent global action was Sept. 20 which include large-scale rallies in Montpelier, Burlington and other Vermont cities and towns.
The parallel student strike for climate movement was sparked by Greta Thunberg, the Swedish student who left school in August last year to protest outside the Swedish parliament. Thunberg testified before Congress and the United Nations Climate Action Summit last month and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Other organizations joining forces with Extinction Rebellion Vermont for the event include: Youth Action Alliance, Migrant Justice, NOFA Vermont, Women’s March Vermont, Building a Local Economy, Institute for Social Ecology, The Make, Kikon N’dakina Grassroots Center, Middlebury Coop, Sunrise Middlebury, Protect Our Wildlife, Community Resilience Organizations, Rural Vermont and People’s Kitchen.
Participants at next week’s event at the State House are asked to bring camping gear, cooking equipment, food, native plants, livestock, and waste and compost bins. People are asked not to bring drugs, alcohol, weapons or pets. A list of activities on Friday, Oct. 18, includes workshops on agriculture, migrant justice, scientific studies on climate change and learning new skills, and on both Friday and Saturday, there will there will be evening community dinners supported by local churches and bands and dance parties both nights.
An informational meeting about the event will be held at the Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier on Wednesday, Oct. 16, from 6 to 8 p.m.
“We demand an education that prepares young people for the climate crisis and the changing world that they are inheriting; a just transition that prioritizes the most vulnerable people and indigenous sovereignty; establishes reparations and remediation led by and for black people, indigenous people, people of color and poor communities for years of environmental injustice; establishes legal rights for ecosystems to thrive and regenerate in perpetuity; and repairs the effects of ongoing ecocide to prevent extinction of human and all species, in order to maintain a livable, just planet for all,” she added.
Richardson-Skinder also said the government must enact legally binding laws to reduce carbon emissions to a net-zero goal by 2025, remove excess carbon from the atmosphere and cooperate globally to cut the world’s energy use in half. She also acknowledged that getting the world’s leaders to respond and act would be difficult.
“We do not trust our government to make the bold, swift and long-term changes necessary to achieve these changes and we do not intend to hand further power to our politicians,” Richard-Skinder said. “Instead we demand a People’s Assembly to oversee the changes, as we rise from the wreckage, creating a democracy fit for purpose.”
For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/xrebellionvt/