06-20-2024  4:00 pm   •   PDX and SEA Weather

Juliana plaintiff Jacob Lebel, center right, speaks during the My Voice. My Rights. Our Future. Rally to Save Juliana outside the White House with fellow Juliana plaintiffs on Sunday, April 21, 2024 in Washington, D.C. Juliana v. United States is a youth-led climate focused lawsuit that is currently being blocked by the Department of Justice. (Photo/Kevin Wolf/AP Images for Our Children’s Trust)
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 23 April 2024

Young people suing state and federal bodies over climate change, along with their supporters, turned out yesterday to demand the White House allow a key case against the United States to move forward.

“We will not be silenced!” the plaintiffs and supporters shouted toward the White House during “My Voice. My Rights. Our Future. A Rally to #SaveJuliana” demonstration.

Demonstrators from several generations came to support the 21 youth plaintiffs of Juliana v. United States, who allege federal actions causing climate change violate their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property. The case is currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 

The Dept. of Justice has fought the Juliana youth for nine years across three administrations. Most recently, DOJ made a seventh request for a writ of mandamus, a legal tool the department itself calls “extraordinary.” The goal of this tactic is to shut the case down before evidence is heard. 

Last month, 30 members of Congress filed a “friend of the court” brief calling for the case to move forward.  

During the rally, Isaac Vergun of Beaverton, Ore., was one of several plaintiffs who wore a symbolic gag. He described both outrage at the efforts of the government to silence young people, and hope they will ultimately prevail. 

“We keep fighting because this case represents not just our voices as plaintiffs but the collective cry of an entire generation demanding accountability on climate change,” Vergun said. He joined the suit as a plaintiff in 2015 at age 13. The day of the rally was his 22nd birthday.  

“When we finally have our day in court, we will win and we’ll force the United States, the biggest contributor to climate change in the world, to make systemic change and phase out fossil fuels.”

Juliana is one of several constitutional climate cases currently in federal or state courts. In a significant victory last year, Montana’s District Court ruled in Held v. Montana that that state’s laws that promote fossil fuels and require turning a blind eye to climate change are unconstitutional. 

Sunday’s speakers also included Zanagee Artis, a youth climate leader with Zero Hour, Jerome Foster II, of Waic Up and the youngest member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, and Hortencia, an Indigenous elder from the Anahuac Basin in Mexico and spokesperson for #IProtectTheWetland. 

Layla H., one of 12 youth plaintiffs in Layla H. v. Commonwealth of Virginia, also spoke at the rally. She noted children across Virginia are suffering from more asthma attacks and incidents of Lyme disease because of climate change.

 “My family and I have experienced countless extreme storms that have resulted in tens of thousands of dollars of damage to our home and land. I’ve done homework by candlelight multiple times as power outages continue to increase in frequency, experienced severe heat rash due to climbing temperatures, and ultimately have begun to feel like the future I am planning for as a young adult is in no way guaranteed.” 

 In recent weeks, 70,000+ emails have been sent to President Biden and members of his administration. The case, and the Department of Justice’s egregious behavior, has garnered national and international attention and 300,000+ signatures in support of the Juliana youth will be delivered to the White House and Department of Justice. 

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