As the discussion around climate change deepens, youth around the world are joining their adult counterparts in coming together to strike. In past protests, Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish activist and founder of Fridays for Future, sat in front of the Swedish parliament every day for three weeks. Others, including US-based Zero Hour, organize rallies and events to invigorate young people to join the fight.
But as we’ve seen time and time again, climate activism comes at its price. Arrests are common, as police arrested over 70 climate activists just earlier this year at the New York Times protest.
About a week ago, another arrest was made. This time, handcuffs were put around the hands of a seventh-grader, who was just 13-year-old.
Teenage climate activist arrested
She, along with other protestors, congregated at Seattle’s city hall to urge local action against climate change. At this point, another protestor handed her a can labeled “chalk,” which turned out to be spray paint. So this happened:
Realizing her mistake, she tried to clean up the paint. At this point, Seattle Police had already responded to a tip about the vandalism and handcuffed the 13-year-old climate activist.
350 Seattle tweeted a video of the interaction between the minor and Seattle Police.
After the interaction, police took her to the precinct let her go, presumably with a warning.
Altogether, it is an unfortunate scenario. Crosscut reporter Nikkita Oliver suggests if Seattle Police aided in cleanup efforts instead of jumping to an arrest, the scenario would have de-escalated quickly. Though vandalism shouldn’t be an excusable offense, it is productive to consider the incident was an honest mistake.
A cautionary tale for climate activists
Activist aren’t done urging governments to act against climate change, and that’s probably a good thing. But this incident should be a cautionary tale. Youth aren’t exempt from the dangers of the ecosystem around climate activism, and if the activism is to continue, this is a critical consideration.