Demonstrators numbering in the hundreds took aim at President Donald Trump’s policies on the environment, climate change deniers and the fossil fuel industry during a two-mile march around the city of Langley on Saturday morning.
Organizers estimated between 400 and 500 people participated in the event. Many protesters carried signs with ominous messages about the earth’s declining state and warned of continued pollution and other harmful climate practices. One sign said, “There Is No Planet ‘B’” while another read, “Make America Smart Again” in mockery of Trump’s presidential campaign slogan, “Make America great again.”
Other sign-holders requested action from decision makers to combat climate change, urged the protection of natural resources and advocated for global peace.
The demonstration came on the same day as the People’s Climate March in Washington D.C., which was attended by tens of thousands. It also marked Trump’s 100th day in office.
“The focus needs to be on science and climate change,” said Tim Economu, a Clinton resident and participant in the march. “We’re moving away from that at the federal level. We need to refocus. It’s an existential crisis with our planet.”
Sandy Shipley, a Langley resident who organized the march with a few other community members, thought people might have been worn out from previous marches such as the Women’s March in January and the March for Science this past weekend. But, when she saw hundreds of people assembled in the large parking lot near the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts before the march, she realized they were anything but drained. They were motivated.
“This was a showing of a desire to let politicians know what we’re thinking,” Shipley said. “I was pleased with the spirit of everybody.”
The event was also sponsored by members of the Greening Congregation Collaboration, an environmental advocacy group composed of churches on Whidbey Island.
The demonstrators received plenty of motivation just prior to their march from Gary Piazzon, a co-leader of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Whidbey Island’s social and environmental justice council. Using a megaphone, Piazzon covered important issues pertaining to climate change issues, such as standing up in opposition to the fossil fuel industry’s environmentally harmful practices before sending the marchers on their way.
“We need to wake up, we need to rise up, we need to open our eyes up and build a better future,” Piazzon said, a phrase he repeated and was transformed into a chant by the crowd surrounding him.
The march followed the same route as the Women’s March in January. Protesters started on Sixth Street and traveled to DeBruyn Avenue, followed by First Street to Cascade Avenue.
Linda Wehrman, a Coupeville resident, proudly held her sign with the text, “I’m With Her” in white letters above a drawing of the earth. Wehrman hopes that the marches both locally and nationwide will help reinforce the truths about climate change.
“Maybe the people in power will start getting the message,” Wehrman said. “You can’t just sit at home and cry. It’s just going to take a lot of marches like this.”
“I think Donald Trump is malleable. He likes to be popular and he’s not. If we do enough of these, maybe he’ll figure out why he’s not popular and change his mind,” she added.
Another sign holder was Kelly Keilwitz, owner of renewable energy design and installation company Whidbey Sun &Wind. His sign touted two messages: “Support Renewable Energies” and “Tax Carbon.” He too hopes that their efforts won’t go unnoticed.
“I feel we need to show our decision makers, our politicians that people do care,” Keilwitz said. “We’re not complacent. I really believe in the axiom that if the people will lead, the leaders will follow.”
Kim Drury, a Langley resident, wore all black during the march as an act of mourning due to the decline in scientific relevance in today’s political climate.
“What happened to science?” Drury said. “It used to be something we embraced.”
Drury added she was disappointed by the lack of attendance of elected officials. She said she’d hoped to see Whidbey’s state lawmakers — Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor; Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano; and Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton. Their voices have power.
“Mine doesn’t,” she said.
Port of South Whidbey Commissioner Ed Halloran was present at the march. It’s not clear if any other elected officials attended; Halloran was the only one seen by a Record reporter.
“We’ve got to take care of the planet,” Halloran said. “It’s where we live.”