Keene’s April 14th Step It Up Congress Rally

It was a great pleasure to read the Keene Sentinel’s April 13th “Step It Up” editorial supporting the local and national effort to push Congress to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2050. It was even more fun seeing the brightly colored Step It Up banners in Keene’s Central Square, the great speakers and bands, and the over 200 citizens who came out on Saturday, April 14 to join the Keene Step It Up Congress Rally. (See also this earlier announcement.)

It was heartening to hear Mayor Blastos welcome everyone and read a resolution from the Keene City Council calling Congress to meet the Step It Up target for cutting carbon pollution. It was also heartening when New Hampshire State Senator Molly Kelly read a letter to the rally-goers from US Congressman Paul Hodes. He didn’t just say nice work, folks. He specifically committed himself to supporting two key pieces of climate change legislation that would meet the Step It Up target goals.

It was also great to have on display a low emission City Express Bus and a City of Keene truck that runs on biodiesel fuel, and have City Councilman James Duffy explain the significance of initiatives like this already underway in Keene. The importance of such initiatives was also really brought home when Antioch University scientist Rachel Thiet laid out the evidence for the growing problem climate disruption and Sue Hay from Mothers Uniting talked about the power of mothers to push for a peaceful and sustainable future for our children and grandchildren.

The weather also held. The three bands—the Pat Hardy Band, Rise, and Born Backward–wowed the crowd and got children dancing. Sherman Morrison was an awesome master of ceremonies. The crowd itself was high energy and ready for action. Step It Up Keene organizers had 120 postcards for each of our three federal legislators calling for support of specific legislation and these were all filled out before 2 pm. Over 200 people signed a general petition supporting Step It Up’s goal. People kept stuffing dollar bills in the decorated coffee cans to help pay for the rally’s expenses.

I also saw two little girls ask the organizers if they could wear volunteer name tags and help with tabling and handing out literature. They stuck with this for over an hour. With young children like this learning to embrace citizen activism, our future may be in better shape that we think.

It is amazing to me that local demonstrations like Keene’s were conducted by hundreds of thousands of people in over 1,400 communities in all 50 states. My thanks to all the organizers, volunteer helpers, co-sponsors, speakers, musicians, and citizens who made Saturday’s April 14 Step It Up Rally in Keene such a moving success. This is how successful movements for social change begin. If you want to see what other communities did, go to the Step It Up website.

What is perhaps most heartening to me is the the little known fact that the whole Step It Up Rally was a class project of the Environmental Advocacy and Organizing Program‘s Advocacy Clinic. The student organizers of this event were Crissy Heide, Hilary Frenkel, Dave Morley, Seth Long, and Brendan Banerdt. As Hilary wrote in a reflection paper: “The Step It Up 2007 Keene event that our Advocacy Clinic class organized proved to be a huge success. It turned out better than I could have imagined and I felt proud to be a part of the amazing result! And thinking about the other 1,400 Step It Up events that took place around the country made our rally a part of something massive and powerful. This experiment was a worthwhile one for me to take on and in the end, the event came off strong. It was well organized, inspirational and so much fun. I am proud and honored to have been a part of the team that organized our Keene rally, and I cannot wait to see how Congress responds to the biggest environmental demonstration in the US since Earth Day 1970.”

Best,
Steve Chase