Oakland City Council hears from youth opposing coal

Twenty-one young people from Youth Vs. Apocalypse addressed the Oakland City Council with powerful testimony insisting that the elected officials keep coal out of Oakland.  Their opportunity to speak came four hours into the council meeting on Tuesday, May 16, their first school day after the teachers’ strike was settled.  And they were initially blocked from entering the council chambers.

Some of the high school students reminded council members that they have been opposing coal since they were in the sixth grade.  They spoke of the dangers of coal to Oakland residents, its connection to climate change, disproportionate health impacts, particularly asthma, and their right to a livable future.  They explicitly warned the council not to accept empty promises or loopholes, reminding the council members that their job is to protect residents.

The speakers identified as coming from five different council districts.  Several participate in a city-wide youth commission.  Six adults also spoke, but the focus was on the young people.

When they came to the meeting after gathering outside, security denied them entrance to the council chambers.  They were admitted after texting council members for help.  At the time, there was no explanation for the lockout, but several council members apologized and Council President Bas called for an investigation.

The plan to address the City Council came as the city nears a July 10 trial date and is engaged in confidential settlement negotiations.  It was initiated by a coalition to keep coal out of Oakland that includes — in addition to Youth Vs. Apocalypse — 350 Bay Area, APEN, East Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility, Faith in Action, Interfaith Council of Alameda County, No Coal in Oakland, San Francisco Baykeeper, Sierra Club San Francisco Bay, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, and West Oakland Neighbors (in alphabetical order).

Above: Video of Youth Testimony at May 16, 2023 Oakland City Council Meeting