With one year remaining until the presidential election, Bowdoin students went to Washington, D.C. on Monday to encourage candidates to speak out on issues of climate, race and immigration. 

Twenty Bowdoin students organized by Bowdoin Climate Action (BCA) drove down to march in the event, called Our Generation, Our Choice. An estimated 500 student activists from the East Coast and Washington, D.C. attended the action on Monday and events throughout the weekend. The group was able to shut down two blocks of Washington Avenue in front of the White House for an hour. 

BCA is directly affiliated with 350.org and the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network, two of the four organizations organizing the action. These organizations were joined by Million Hoodies for Justice, a racial justice group, and United We Dream, an immigrant rights group. 

“It’s really a historic thing. The climate movement hasn’t seen much intersectionality in the past, and this is really the first time these movements are coming together,” said BCA member Julia Berkman-Hill ’17. “It’s directly targeting our presidential candidates and forcing them to take action on the issues that are important to us as young people.”

This fall, BCA disrupted a Hillary Clinton rally, encouraging the presidential candidate to take a stand on the Keystone XL Pipeline. Clinton spoke on the issue five days later and denounced the pipeline. 

Berkman-Hill said that results like that are the goal of events like last Monday’s.  
“It just goes to show how organizers, protesters and young people can actually move political candidates,” she said. 

Although the action took place on Monday, the event offered trainings and teaching opportunities for students throughout the weekend. Berkman-Hill and Jamie Ptacek ’17 led a panel on building a base for activism. 

Ptacek and Berkman-Hill emphasized an “act, recruit, train cycle,” that involves engaging in an action, going back to those who were not part of the movement to recruit them and training them to continue the cycle and grow the base. Ptacek said this can be used for any movement from climate justice to issues of race. 

BCA plans to incorporate what they learned at the protest into their actions on campus. 
“It taught us a lot about how to be intentional with coalition building moving forward on Bowdoin’s campus and how we can effectively reach out to different groups and make meaningful connections and work in conjunction to move forward on mutual interests,” BCA member Jonah Watt ’18 said. 

On Thursday, BCA screened “This Changes Everything,” a documentary that focuses on the links between capitalism, the global economy and the climate crisis. BCA hopes to create similar programing and events in the future to educate Bowdoin students on the climate crisis. 
For Watt, the conference met many of his goals he set for the trip. 

“I think it highlighted the importance of joining these three often separate movements, and I think we really found how difficult it was to build coalitions and make sure that they’re inclusive and representative of all factions,” he said.