Environmental protestors with 350Juneau placed pairs of shoes on the steps of the Alaska State Capitol Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, to represent all the demonstrators who would’ve been there if not for the coronavirus pandemic. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Environmental protestors with 350Juneau placed pairs of shoes on the steps of the Alaska State Capitol Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, to represent all the demonstrators who would’ve been there if not for the coronavirus pandemic. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Shoes stand in for protesters at Capitol

Environmentalists want lawmakers to get ‘Xtratuf’ on climate

They weren’t there in person, but protesters still had boots on the ground.

Hundreds of pairs of shoes, mostly Xtratuf boots, were laid out Wednesday on the steps of the Alaska State Capitol and across Fourth Street, there to represent the protesters with climate change-related concerns who would’ve shown up if not for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Environmental protestors with 350Juneau placed pairs of shoes on the steps of the Alaska State Capitol Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, to represent all the demonstrators who would’ve been there if not for the coronavirus pandemic. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Environmental protestors with 350Juneau placed pairs of shoes on the steps of the Alaska State Capitol Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, to represent all the demonstrators who would’ve been there if not for the coronavirus pandemic. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

These kinds of “shoe strike” demonstrations have been taking place across Europe and in a few places in the United States, said Elaine Schroeder of 350Juneau, a grassroots climate group.

“To make the event more distinctly Alaskan, organizers chose the Xtratuf boot and are calling on lawmakers to get ‘Xtratuf on climate change”

“I am very excited about the enthusiasm of people who know this is happening,” Schroeder told the Empire Wednesday. “People are delighted to do something concrete, to let their shoes say what they want to say if they could be there in person.”

Participants were asked to drop off pairs of shoes, preferably Xtratufs, to organizers’ homes and to be displayed in front of the capitol. At noon Wednesday, more than 20 protesters gathered in front of the capitol with about 160 pairs of shoes, said Doug Woodby, co-chair of 350Juneau. Shoes will be returned to their owners following the rally, he said.

Only two brief speeches were made, calling for an end to fossil fuel production and exploration, specifically mentioning opposition to drilling in the Arctic Northwest Refuge and large investments in renewable energies. Sen. Jesse Kiehl and Rep. Sara Hannan, both Juneau Democrats, came down from their offices in the Capitol to mingle with protesters.

Woodby said the demonstration was important to maintain and increase awareness of environmental issues. There wasn’t a specific event or call to action that motivated the event, just a sense of urgency and worry the climate may be forgotten among national concerns.

“We’re going through the COVID crisis, but we’re still going through the climate crisis,” he said. “We have legislators who know what needs to be done. This is to let them know the people support action on climate change.”

Sen. Jesse Kiehl, right, and Rep. Sara Hannan, back right, both Juneau Democrats, stepped out of their offices at the Captiol to join environmental protestors for a demonstration on the building’s steps. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Sen. Jesse Kiehl, right, and Rep. Sara Hannan, back right, both Juneau Democrats, stepped out of their offices at the Captiol to join environmental protestors for a demonstration on the building’s steps. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.

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