Socialist Worker

Thousands take to the streets across Britain to demand action on climate change

by Socialist Worker journalists
Issue No. 2646

Over 10,000 people marched on Buckingham Palace in central London

Over 10,000 people marched in central London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Friday saw historic action for climate change across 123 countries and territories and in over 2,000 towns and cities.

The Fridays For Future movement, led by teenagers, saw hundreds of thousands of students and workers across the world walk out to demand urgent action on climate change.

Over 10,000 students—mostly of secondary school age—poured into central London to fight for their future.

It follows strikes in Britain on 15 February. The next strikes are set to happen on 15 April.

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Many people at the strike rally on Friday in Parliament Square hadn’t been part of the previous walkout.

Luke from Charter School in south east London said it was important to demand that “the government should do more, and our school should do more.”

Most of his year group had struck on Friday. “The school don’t agree with us—but there’s so many of us they can’t do anything,” he said.

Much of the anger was directed broadly at the people at the top of society. An early splinter group went to Buckingham Palace, passing up Whitehall and by Downing Street on the way.

“This is our future and Theresa May is fucking it up,” said Audrey from Streatham, south London, arguing it’s important to strike and be out on the streets.

“They won’t listen any other way,” she said. “Theresa May won’t do anything. We need to get her out and get a Green Party or Labour government.”

Many students saw individual action as part of a movement to getwider systemic changes

Striker Zaffre said, “The government should do more to cut carbon emissions. But it’s a problem across the entire world. There’s so much plastic in the sea, for example.

“There needs to be change on those things—but there also needs to be social change. That’s why so many people are chanting ‘Fuck Theresa May’.”

Hundreds on the streets of Manchester

Hundreds on the streets of Manchester (Pic: Sue Caldwell)


Chants for Jeremy Corbyn had less take up. That’s partly because there was such a spread of different ideas on the demo.

Not many strikers explicitly identified with any political party, and some explicitly didn’t want it to be “political”.

But it showed that Corbynism isn’t necessarily a dominant element of this new, mass street movement fighting for change.

And many students saw individual action as part of a movement to get wider systemic changes.

Jay, Umayma and Nur—students in Islington, north London—came to the protest to raise awareness of how food waste contributes to climate change.

Those on the march had different ideas about how to tackle climate change.

Striker Orla said, “I’m a vegan—and I advocate that because cows produce so much methane. People need to think about the waste and energy we use.”

Striker Romy argued for “more electric cars and buses. And we need legislation based on the Paris agreement—but which also goes much further because that’s not enough.”

Investing

Priyaanca demanded “the government stop investing in fossil fuels, and start investing in renewable energy. I want my grandchildren to have a good future, it’s way more important than anything else—climate change means the world is going to end.”

The walkout was jubilant, and defiant in the face of increased police presence.

Protesters in Brighton

Protesters in Brighton (Pic: Christian Hogsbjerg)


South London student Caoimhe said it was “just amazing” to be part of the climate strike movement. “We need to come together to and say, ‘This is wrong and we need to do something about it’,” she said. “We need the government to declare a climate emergency, because this isn’t something that’s happening in the future, but right now.”

Striker Uma agreed. She told Socialist Worker the march in London made her feel “really powerful—it feels like we’re getting listened to”.

For some strikers the movement was a revolt of the young against an older generation who won’t suffer the full consequences of climate change. Matthew argued, “It’s only going to affect young people—it’s not going to affect the politicians making decisions, it’s going to affect us.”

His friend Orlando went further, arguing, “The only way to change things is to rise up. It’s the rich bastards at the top who won’t be affected—but we will”.


Striking across Britain

Thousands of school, college and university students marched across Britain on Friday to demand action on climate change. There were mobilisations in about 100 towns and cities overall.

Up to 3,000 gathered in Edinburgh, and 2,000 in Glasgow. Elsewhere in Scotland there were protests in Aberdeen, Inverness, St Andrews, East Kilbride, Coatbridge, Stirling, Inverkeithing, Peebles, Fort William, Forres, Ullapool, South Uist, Kirkwall and Eigg.

Protesting in Glasgow

Protesting in Glasgow


Some of the larger turnouts outside London in England included over 2,000 in Brighton, up to 1,500 in Sheffield and some 1,300 in Bristol.

There were 400 in Nottingham (twice as many as last time) and 400 in York (up from 75 last time). 

Climate strikers in York

Climate strikers in York (Pic: Julie Forgan)


In Hull up to 100 young people from schools across the city and the college held a lively and upbeat protest alongside some parents.

They marched around the city and held a sit-down protest outside the Hull council chambers.

Emma Hardy MP visited the protest and three councillors came out to speak to the protesters about Hull City Council’s approach to climate change.

Chants including “System change not climate change”, “There is no planet B”, and “We shall not be moved” rang out.

A crowd of over 100 striking school and college students rallied in Plymouth City Centre before marching on the office of Labour MP and Shadow Environment Minister Luke Pollard.

Their supporters included parents and Extinction Rebellion climate change group activists.

When they arrived at Pollard’s constituency office they put questions to him and Labour Plymouth City Council leader Tudor Evans.

The more radical comments and questions gained the biggest cheers. Then the crowd set off again for another impromptu rally and march.

Shouts of "System change, not climate change!" could be heard.

Thanks to Eleanor Woyen, Christian Hogsbjerg, Mark Woyen, Matt Bradbury and all who sent reports and pictures. See more at our Twitter page


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