Among the hundreds of Extinction Rebellion activists who blockaded a street in Wellington today, there was a teenager who got temporarily kicked out of his school for protesting too much. Alex Braae reports.
“My mother, when she first found out, was a little enraged that I was skipping classes to go and hang out with an old man outside parliament. That didn’t go down too well.”
So said 15 year old Micah Geiringer, who finished up his 60 day vigil at parliament two months ago, standing alongside Ollie Langridge who clocked up 100 consecutive days of protesting.
They’re two of an increasing number of people willing to inconvenience themselves and their own lives, in order to call for action on climate change.
On Monday, around 300 Extinction Rebellion protesters turned up outside the offices of the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, with small groups blockading entrances, and larger groups standing on Stout Street, which runs on to Lambton Quay. They intend to stay there for the whole day.
MBIE was chosen as a target because of their role in signing off on the exploitation of fossil fuels.
Periodically, groups would swarm onto Lambton Quay itself, blocking traffic for around ten minutes, before retreating back again onto Stout St. As with the recent climate change march to parliament, there were plenty of onlookers from the surrounding office buildings.
Micah said he has personally faced consequences for his protesting, in particular from Wellington High School. “I was asked to come into a meeting with the deputy principal, and she said this was against the school’s kaupapa. So basically if I continued to protest, I’d be taken off the school’s roll, and I did continue to protest up until Ollie’s 100 days.”
He says he was taken off the roll, and subsequently explored correspondence school or going to a different school, but in the end was allowed to return.
The year 11 student says he conscious of the fact that he has probably affected his own education by being absent from school for so long, but that it was time spent actively learning. “I think it will impact my learning for a very long time, with the NCEA programme I can catch up next year, and I can do extra work. But learning in that classroom environment – I did miss out on quite a lot.”
However, he says he doesn’t have any regrets, because he’s looking at a bigger picture of what his future will hold. “You also have to weigh it up with the fact that during that protest, I did learn a lot, and was doing things that would help create a future. If I went to school and didn’t do that, I may have not been contributing to a movement that is establishing a future for me to use my education in.”
Micah also said his parents eventually came around, after he demonstrated to them that he still intended to take his education seriously, either by returning to school or starting correspondence school.
The direct action events in Wellington are the first of many around the world scheduled for this week. Further, as yet unspecified actions are planned over the coming days for Wellington.
The police presence during the morning was minimal and hands off, though many of the protesters have declared a willingness to be arrested rather than voluntarily leaving their blockades.
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