A carnival atmosphere swept through central London on Friday as thousands of students walked out of school to demand climate justice.
The “youth strike 4 climate” mobilisations saw up to 10,000 young people—from toddlers to university students—rally in Parliament Square.
The atmosphere was angry and urgent. It was driven by the rage of a generation who feel they may not have a future.
It was organised as part of the “Fridays for Future” demonstrations that originated with 16-year old Greta Thurnberg in Sweden but has since gone global.
It follows large school strikes in Belgium on Thursday, and school strikes in France as well.
Many primary school-age students took part. The majority of protesters were of secondary school age.
Lots of strikers had never been to a political protest before and had heard about the strike through Facebook and Instagram.
Tamzin had travelled from Slough to be part of the demonstration in Parliament Square. She told Socialist Worker, “It’s about the few ruining it for the many, we need to regulate large business and greenhouse gases.”
And she said the experience of being on strike should make older generations listen. “There’s a stigma that teenagers aren’t politically active and today shows that’s not true”, she argued.
Matea, 12, from Twickenham in west London said it was important to take action because “climate change isn’t going away unless someone does something about it.”
“Kids need to come together and say ‘it’s our future’," she said. “If it's just one person the government isn’t going to take any notice—we need to come together.”
Six year-old Solomon and his nine year-old sister Elijah were picnicking on the grass in Parliament Square. Students at St Saviour’s in Walthamstow, they were planning to go back to school after the lunch break and tell their classmates about their morning strike.
“We need to protest about climate change”, said Elijah to Socialist Worker. “It’s not too many years until it’s too late, so we need to act now.”
The urgency of the situation is something many strikers talked about. Many homemade placards referenced the IPCC report in October that said there was only 12 years left to avoid the worst-case scenario for climate change.
“It’s the most important thing—climate change should be a priority. There’s no time left for slow progress” said Emilia from Camden, north London.
Emilia had made a placard comparing meat consumption to water use. But, she also argued, "We can’t put the blame on the consumer”.
“The whole process needs to change. We need to change the system to make it more sustainable”, she added.
This was a theme running through the demonstration.
We’ve got to stop this physically, because we want to live. The plant is the most important thing, we can’t live anywhere else.Myla
Sean is a 14 year-old student at Queens Park Community School in north west London. He said a handful of students struck there today.
“We need to change the system. Capitalism has got us to this point but it won’t get us out of it” he said.
“We need to put pressure on the top 100 companies that produce 70 percent of global emissions and we need to cut down on waste and production—if we don’t adapt we’re screwed.”
Sol, a 15 year old student from Camden had painted an anti Theresa May placard. It read, "Soon there won’t be a field to run through”.
“She doesn’t stand for us, she doesn’t do enough to represent us, I don’t support her in any way” he said.
Anti-Tory chants rang out on the march. “Where the fuck are the government?” echoed off the buildings of central London. Support for Jeremy Corbyn was strong.
As the demonstration marched off from Parliament Square, strikers performed sit-ins on Westminster Bridge and demanded vehicles turn their engines off.
The march grew in confidence, and strikers argued with bus drivers about why they should support the strike. Several protesters climbed lampposts and bus stops to wild cheers from the crowd.
Mika, a 14 year-old student from west London who described herself as a socialist, said the experience was “amazing—sometimes it feels as though nobody else feels the same way—but we do.”
She argued the situation couldn’t be any more serious.
“I want my future children to know what fish are—we have to fix it now that past generations haven’t," she said. "We can turn this thing around, we have to put passion and love into this. This is the only way we can be heard.”
Her friend Myla, also 14, said, “We’re not going to get an education because we’re all going to be dead. We’ve got to stop this physically, because we want to live. The planet is the most important thing, we can’t live anywhere else.”
Today's thousands-strong strike shows the depth of anger about the world young people are inheriting. But it also shows a move towards the type of action that will be necessary to tackle the climate chaos threatening us all.
Climate strike round-up
Around 500 took part in Glasgow in a brilliant day of protest.
School students braved threats of exclusion and isolation at two Scarborough senior schools to join the climate strike on Friday.
The strike horrified the authorities so much that pro-fracking Tory MP Robert Goodwill condemned it in the local press.
Police went into one school to tell students that they could be fined. They came out anyway. And they were upbeat and determined to make the second climate strike next month even bigger.
We also heard speeches of encouragement from Green and Labour Party candidates and local campaigners. Theresa Norton for Labour ended her speech with the rallying cry, “System Change not climate change!”
And Dave Malone for the Greens warned striking students they would come up against opposition, but had to stick together to grow the movement.
Thanks to Kim Hunter
Around 1,000 students of all ages ditched school in Bristol to protest against climate change. Some came from as far as Taunton and Gloucester.
Rainbow flags were everywhere and the demonstration was flooded with placards, one of the most popular choices being “System Change, Not Climate Change”.
After speeches, the students headed to the main road on the bottom of Park Street to stop the traffic and sit continuously chanting, “Climate Justice Now”.
Thanks to Abigail Head
Up to 2,000 students took to the streets of Brighton as part of climate change protests. Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton, was one of the speakers at the rally.
Thanks to Christian Hogsbjerg
Hundreds rallied outside Sheffield town hall on the brilliant school students' strike. They are fighting for the future.
Thanks to Phil Turner
Around 800-1,000 joined the protests
Thanks to Richard Bradbury