XRPDX in 2020: A Rough Year in Review

by Your XRPDX Coordinating Team

If you’re reading this, you know 2020 has been a rough year.

  • A global pandemic that upended our lives in March and is still far from over.
  • A national surge of protests in response to the brutal murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police.
  • An uprising in Portland that featured brutal clashes between police and protesters almost every night for more than five months…and is still not remotely settled.
  • An invasion by federal forces attempting to overrule our District Attorney’s decision not to prosecute protesters for protesting.
  • A constant, reckless barrage of tear gas and other chemical agents by police and federal agents that caused unknown amounts of damage to human health and the environment.
  • Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat, setting up a “Unified Command Structure” that, not once but twice, federally deputized city and county police.
  • Out-of-town fascist groups continuing their tradition of causing mayhem on the streets of Portland while being protected by the police.
  • Unhoused people continuing to experience their tents, their belongings and their bodies being again and again “swept” off the street by police.
  • Threats of eviction hanging over more and more renters as the economy continues to flounder.
  • The prospect of a possible coup attempt—the first in US history—that would have tried to overturn a Presidential election.

This list is not exhaustive. And through it all, the climate crisis worsened.

We felt it. We smelled it. And we watched it as one million acres of Oregon forests burned and a “Smoke Apocalypse” awarded Portland the unpleasant distinction of having the worst air quality in the world for straight 10 days.

Towns. Forests. Farms. Homes. People. Wildlife. All gone, reduced to smoke and ash, dust and debris.

And all of this was just a nightcap to close out the four year bender of environmental and climate devastation under the Trump administration.

The Fremont Bridge seems to disappear into the thick smoke of 2020's summer wildfires.
(This summer’s wildfires turned landmarks like the Fremont Bridge into dystopian nightmares. Photo credit: Austen Lethbridge-Scarl)

Through it all, facing challenges both internal and external, XRPDX has continued our work, advocating for Extinction Rebellion’s Four Demands:

  1. Tell the truth.
  2. Act now on climate.
  3. Hold citizens’ assemblies.
  4. Fight for racial and environmental justice.

For the First Demand, our communications have been key. This year we published a weekly newsletter with online actions and much more; published a blog; posted to social media; and, just this month, went live with our hot new website: xrpdx.org! We filed a 501(c)4 status as a nonprofit organization, meaning we can now accept donations. (Wink, wink. WINK, WINK.) We organized with allies to push for the City of Portland to join 1800 other cities in passing Climate Emergency Declarations, which the City Council passed unanimously on June 30th. (Read our testimony here and a post-vote reflection here.)

For the Second Demand, which calls for immediate action, we’ve managed to continue to safely do direct actions while also pushing actions online:

  • We heard the call of Indigenous leaders and rallied in front of City Hall, the Port of Vancouver, Chase Bank and Liberty Mutual multiple times in support of the Wet’suwe’ten people’s struggle against the Transmountain (TMX) Pipeline in Canada.
  • We celebrated the exoneration of the “Zenith 5” defendants, who built a garden on tar sands oil train tracks and successfully used the Necessity Defense in the context of climate change.
  • Following the lead of youth climate activists in the Fridays For Future movement, we participated in weekly vigils in front of Cleveland High School.
  • All year, we’ve been active in the Stop The Money Pipeline coalition, targeting banks, investors and insurers that provide funding and insurance to fossil fuel infrastructure projects.
  • We’ve been working on the XR national restructure working group and are excited about a proposal for mobilizing rotating contingents for national XR and other climate justice group actions in support of Indigenous resistance to the Line 3 pipeline this coming year.

The Third Demand, calling for the kinds of Citizens’ Assemblies that are so active in Europe, feels like a remote possibility here, but the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is calling for public comment on a tangible program to charge fees to major polluters and carbon emitters.

A local conference on climate change, listed as an action item in Portland’s Climate Emergency Declaration, was never held because of the pandemic. One promising proposal for an alternative would be a citywide conference convened by the Portland Youth Climate Council, with the support of the city government, that invited a broad range of groups with a focus on climate justice.

We need to keep pushing for massive support demanding concrete action steps for annual decarbonization. Getting the city back on track and committing to its own climate goals would be a step in the right direction.

The Fourth Demand, calling for justice for oppressed people­—most critically the Black, Brown and Indigenous communities who will be most impacted by climate destruction—was the anchor of our coalition work as issues of systemic racial injustice came to dominate the national consciousness.

We supported the Movement for Black Lives at street actions, protests in front of the Justice Center, weekly vigils in neighborhoods, participation in the NAACP’s Environmental Justice and Climate Education Committees, support for UNITE Oregon’s lead around police accountability as well as anti-eviction and pro-restitution support. We rallied against a potential coup, building the Defend Democracy Coalition and following the lead of BIPOC and labor activists and J.U.I.C.E. (Together with our allies we are planning an Inaugurate Justice event on January 20.)

The Earth Day to Tax Day Coalition (now called Oregon Coalition for Land and Peoples) and the Portland Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines received our support via webinars and public actions that highlighted the links between climate activism and the struggles of anti-militarism and anti-imperialism. One of our members helped found the Climate Crisis and Militarism working group in Veterans For Peace, which features a number of members are also active in XR chapters across the country.

A group photo of XRPDX standing together outside the Portland Waterfront Marriott, protesting their housing of the federal agents who were battling protesters every night in July of 2020.
(Even in this dark year, XRPDX stands together. Photo credit: Janet Weil)

As a wrap up, XRPDX’s Coordinating Team did some self-reflecting on how we fared during a very difficult year. Here are some of their comments.

  • “Following the lead of others is a good skill to develop.”
  • “This kind of lockdown shut down our strengths. To the Action working group: you’ve played a bad hand really well.”
  • “We’ve been taking time to deepen relationships.”
  • “Aligning racial justice with climate justice – that Venn diagram is now a circle. This was a really exciting year.”
  • “We’re getting a great Regenerative Culture group together.”
  • “Coming in somewhat late in the year, I really like how this organization uses its time.”
  • “Working with young people gives me energy. They are the hope of the future, and it’s been really, really great to work with them.”

We appreciate your support, and we’re just getting started. Together, we can face this new year with courage and determination.

Rebel for life!

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