Environmental activists take port message to waterfront

Protesters lined the George Town waterfront on Friday, as part of a growing environmental movement driven by student activists.

Organisers with Protect Our Future brought together around 100 people, including members of CPR Cayman, in a showing against the proposed cruise berthing and cargo facility.

Dejea Lyons and Ben Somerville directed the gathering, leading chants by megaphone to save the reef and take a stand against the port project, now subject to a people-initiated referendum to determine its future.

Passing motorists honked their horns in support while others shouted out objections to the demonstrators’ messages.  Protesters donned signs reading “Stand now or swim later”, “There are no jobs on a dead island”, and “End corporate eco-cide”, among others.

Olivia Zimmer, one of the founding members of Protect Our Future, said the event was meant to raise awareness and to encourage voters to research the port project.

“We’re just out here to rally together as a community and show that we are awake and we are in tune with what’s going on, and that we’re not just going to take whatever the government feeds us,” Zimmer said.

“Our key message would be: before you vote, know what you’re voting for. … Try to research as much as you can.” Zimmer noted the gathering momentum around the student environmental movement, saying that she has been blown away by the community support and social media feedback.

Local organisers, in fact, have drawn inspiration from the larger student climate movement, galvanised by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and driven by the social media tag #FridaysforFuture.

“Fridays for Future is a global organisation led by students. Every single Friday they strike,” explained student activist Steff Mcdermot.

“What makes today significant is it’s the global strike day. So these students organise all around the world to get up today and to strike for our future.”

Continuing with the momentum, a small group of Cayman Islands students will travel to Spain this week to participate in the United Nations climate action summit, COP25. Students attending the event will have the chance to learn from global leaders as well as share the perspective of Caribbean islanders.

One of the students who will attend, Connor Childs, said they are preparing speeches and researching ahead of the global gathering.

“There are going to be a lot of high-ranking people there. Like Greta [Thunberg] is going to be there. I’m not sure if we’re going to meet her there, but hopefully we will,” Childs said.

“But we are there mainly to listen. Hopefully we can weigh in on some of the conversations.”

As for the message from Friday’s protest, Childs kept it simple: “We are out here to raise awareness to say no to the port.”