Updated after the jump: Gloria and 200 angry middle-schoolers give police, school administrators — and most of all Chevron — a piece of their mind.
We're more used to seeing L.A. attorney Gloria Allred fight for the disenfranchised women of the workplace — including Meg Whitman's underappreciated nanny and chicks whose boobs are too big for the office — but every once in a while, every good warrior of justice must bring it back to the children.
In this case, those kids go to Dwyer Middle School in Huntington Beach, and they're beyond pissed about the administration's evil green plan to tile the school's lawn with Chevron solar panels.
Clean energy is great and all, but this proactive group of tweens (I mean shit, they somehow snagged Allred — pro bono?) aren't about to let it get in the way of their traditional play space and on-the-grass graduation ceremonies.
Allred and the kids plan to pull a major stunt at 1:30 p.m. this afternoon: They'll stand up against the laying of the solar panels with an on-campus protest during school hours. Big deal, right? Like a tree-sit, but less environmentally friendly.
The scandal doesn't stop there. Allred is claiming in a statement today that “the police chief of Huntington Beach has met with the children and many feel that the police have threatened the students with arrest if they hold the protest as planned.” That spells police intimidation for this courthouse know-it-all.
If things get too crazy with the cops, kids are instructed to march to a nearby park, where Mama Allred will be waiting with open arms.
Exhibit A — this spectacular Google Maps grab (no, really, you can practically see their freaking cleats) — we observe that, as promised, Dwyer Middle Schoolers really do use the field for playing. Sure, its worn-thin surface may slightly resemble an overhumped stuffed animal, but did the Velveteen Rabbit deserve to be plated in solar panels just because he was so well-loved?
We digress. On this very field, at 1:30 p.m. today, a group of budding Huntington Beach activists will come into their own. Stay tuned for the outcome of the stand-off; Allred will hold a press conference at 2 p.m.
The OC Register has the story on the months-long lead-up:
School board members in January approved the location of two carport-like solar structures. Dwyer is one of five schools in the district to get the panels: Hawes, Sowers, Smith and Seacliff are also taking part in the green project. District officials reported there will be a minimum of $1.9 million in savings over the next 25 years.
Construction on the arrays has begun at Dwyer. The area has been fenced off and cement posts have been laid.
The Register quotes parent Annelle Wiederkehr as saying, “For the kids, that grass is where they socialize; they have an emotional connection to it. The kids want their voices heard. We want a safe, peaceful protest.”
And 13-year-old Jasmine Mayr: “We don't think we need the solar panels. We think we could use the money for something else, like a gym. We don't have a gym so we can never have any home games here.”
Sounds reasonable enough to us. Go get 'em, Allred.
Update: It was 200 students and Allred versus Big Oil (excuse us, Big Green) at Lake Park in Huntington Beach today. The celebrity lawyer spoke at the nearby meeting spot as promised, going so far as to quote Martin Luther King, Jr. and, uh, Sidney Hook.
Allred relayed the story of the oppressed Dwyer Middle School freedom-fighters:
“… This week they were called to a meeting with the Police Chief of Huntington Beach. Many who attended that meeting felt that they were being threatened with arrest by the police if they held the protest at the school today as previously planned. The Police Chief distributed copies of the Penal Code sections which he apparently felt might apply to the planned protest. …
The student leaders of the demonstration were not aware that a permit was required to use the school grounds after school. Although their parents applied for one after learning of the requirements a few days ago, none was issued for today¹s demonstration at the school.
It is truly sad that neither Dwyer Middle School nor the police took advantage of the golden opportunity to educate the students about the lawful way to protest without the risk of arrest and confrontation with authorities.”
Student protest leader Caroline Wiederkehr — who originally contacted Allred — also spoke at the press conference. Pretty heavy stuff for a 13-year-old.
“… The school board thinks its okay to put solar panels on our front lawn, even though it may violate the law for them to do so because our school has been declared a historic landmark because of its age and it appears that the school board has not followed all legal requirements for building on the site of an historic landmark.
We are pro solar. We just do not want the solar panels in this location on the grass in front of the school. Putting them in the grass where students hold their graduation and participate in P.E. is just not right.
Well today is a new day. I stand here in front of all of you saying that we will protest.
Many people, such as the police, board members, and school administrators, have tried to convince my fellow students not to protest. They threatened to arrest us, punish us, and have repeatedly ripped down and thrown away signs we have spent HOURS designing and putting up.
WE HAVE A PLAN: We want Chevron, the company who is building the solar panels on the Dwyer Middle School front field, to stop construction and to locate them elsewhere on the school grounds. Chevron says that they care about the environment but we think they don't care. If they did care they would move the solar panels to a different location, the ice plant area, at the school, but they seem to refuse to do that or want to quote a price for moving the solar panels which many people in the community think is an excessive and ridiculously expensive price.
So I close my speech today asking, “Why does Chevron choose to hurt the students and our historic school?” “Don't they want to be kind neighbors to the Huntington Beach Community?” I guess the only one who can answer this question is Chevron.
I have a message for Chevron on behalf of many students in the Huntington Community: “We believe you don't care about the field, you don't care about being environmentally friendly. You care about yourselves and making money. That angers us so we are speaking up. If you continue building the solar panels on our field after everything we have been saying and doing that's just sad.”
If not a lesson in how to peacefully protest, at least this can be a lesson in… never trusting Chevron. Or the Man. Ever. Again. (Looks like we've got some future Prop. 26 repealers on our hands.)
Just for an idea of what these kids would really rather not see on their campus every day, take a gander at this German solar field:
Like we said: Really can't blame them for the ruckus. That thing looks like a freaking nano-chip warzone.
No word from Dwyer administrators on whether this will affect the solar-panel construction schedule, which is already underway. We'll let you know if they call us back.
Originally posted at 9:10 a.m.
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