Socialist Worker

School students on the streets against climate chaos

by Sarah Bates and Nick Clark
Issue No. 2650

The sit-in at Oxford Circus

The sit-in at Oxford Circus (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Thousands of students in Britain staged their third day of action against climate change. Part of the Fridays For Future climate action movement, it saw action in 540 towns and cities in 72 countries.

In central London around 1,000 gathered in Parliament Square for a march. Protesters are furious about government inaction on climate change—and the deadly result.

Hundreds took part in marches and rallies in several other cities and towns in Britain including Birmingham, Oxford, Cambridge and Brighton.

In London, Micky told Socialist Worker, “It’s not our planet to ruin. Our future should be more sustainable energy, and more legislation,” they said.

Protester Alice said, “We’re here because we don’t like the way that the government is ignoring climate change.

“Brexit will happen in a year, but the planet will die if we don’t do anything about that.”

Many felt that climate change posed the biggest threat to humanity, and all other issues were secondary.

One student said, “The government doesn’t seem to care what we want, they won’t be around to see it. Every political problem can be fixed, but the climate can’t be fixed because it won’t be here forever.”

Sit-in

The demo marched to Oxford Circus, where hundreds staged a sit-in at the junction.

Faith and Abs joined in with the sit-in, risking arrest. Faith said that it was important to take direct action because “causing obstruction will make the government more willing to listen.

“We need to force them to start listening and act and start punishing companies.

Abs said, “I’m scared to get arrested. I go through racism every day—and you get used to it, but I’m scared of what will happen,” he said.

The protest was smaller than the than the thousands-strong mobilisations in February and March—partly because of the school holidays.

But many of the people on the march today said they hadn’t come on the previous two because they weren’t confident about leaving school.

The previous protests had been more chaotic, with groups of students splintering off and marching in all directions.

This time the organisers were able to lead the whole crowd and keep tighter control over how the day played out.

On the march

On the march (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Because many of the protesters were new, there was still plenty of energy and enthusiasm. But most also hoped that future protests would get bigger.

“If no one rises up nothing will change”, Sophie told Socialist Worker.

“We’ve got to keep going, I’m definitely going to be part of the XR Rebellion on Monday”.

Cara agreed, and said the marches “raise awareness, and we need more people out. It feels like we’re making a difference.”

She called on Theresa May to “address climate change and bring in new laws”.

Demands on the Tory government featured on many placards, but there was less anti-Tory chanting, and no pro-Jeremy Corbyn chants featured, as on previous mobilisations in London.

School strikes—a climate of hope
School strikes—a climate of hope
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The demo ended in Trafalgar Square, where teenagers took the megaphone—one telling the hundreds-strong crowd, “Don’t let the adults tell you your voice doesn’t matter”.

The wider labour movement was entirely absent from the mobilisation. While there were individual trade unionists on the demonstrations, none brought banners from their trade union branches.

The smaller size is partly a reflection that you can’t have a school “strike” at a time when most schools are on holiday.

But it also reflects the dangers of allowing one group to fight by themselves.

Climate chaos is a danger so imminent and so vast it cannot be left just to students organising school strikes—workers have to get involved in the movement.

Organisers championed the Green New Deal (GND) as the solution to climate change, and got a good response.

A GND banner led the demonstration, with one demanding “climate justice now” following shortly after.

A speaker from the organisers said the GND was “not a wishlist but a solution. It’s not led by the left or right, it’s led by the movement.

“It’s an end to market-based solutions. Every solution so far has the wrong motive,” he added.

Cyrus from the UK Schools Climate Network said that the “GND is important because “we need sustainable climate jobs, we need to go carbon neutral soon—this country is acting way too slowly.

“GND is a very radical reform—if we don’t have it the politicians will face a revolution.”

 


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