Socialist Worker

School climate strikers march to demand action on climate change

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2656

On the protest in London at Parliament Square

On the protest in London at Parliament Square (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Tens of thousands of school students across Britain struck on Friday to demand action to avert a climate catastrophe.

The second day of action coordinated by the Fridays For Future movement saw mobilisations across the world.

The movement began last August when teenager Greta Thunberg staged a solo protest outside the Swedish parliament.

Thunberg has now joined with other climate strike leaders across the world to callon workers to strike on 20 September.

In a statement organisers said, “We’re asking adults to step up alongside us… today, so many of our parents are busy discussing whether our grades are good, or a new diet or the Game of Thrones finale—whilst the planet burns.

“But to change everything, we need everyone. It is time for all of us to unleash mass resistance.”

This would be a huge breakthrough for a movement which has seen not enough activity from workers and their union leaders.

Demand

Organisers say the strikes on Friday are likely to match the size of the 1.5 million-strong walkout on 15 March.

In London, the strike—the fourth of its kind—saw up to 10,000 people march to the Department for Education to demand schools teach the truth about climate change.

In other towns and cities people mobilised in hundreds and thousands. In Edinburgh some 2,500 turned out, in Brighton the number was 1,500 and in York 250.

Jake from North London argued that pressure needs to be piled on large firms.

“It’s wrong that big companies are affecting our future, we want our children and their children to have the same upbringing we did,” he told Socialist Worker.

Many on the demonstration had been involved in—or have been following—the direct action group Extinction Rebellion (XR).

This week’s action is likely to be followed by further student climate strikes throughout the summer. It’s a positive step forward that student organisers are calling on workers to join them. There is a potential to build for a mass movement of strikes, protests and occupations that erupts in September.

University student Helen said, “XR has grown so rapidly, and it really helps having support from Greta Thunberg and actor Emma Thompson. That makes a huge difference.”

Megan came on the march with her mum Donna and five year old sister Darcy. She argued a key solution is “renewable energy. We need more wind turbines and water power—there are so many options”.

Many strikers had made placards which pointed out they are the generation which will bear the greatest burden of climate change. The idea of generational responsibility was a common theme for many strikers.

Manika said, “The generation before us didn’t have to make the same decisions. They could fly around the place, eat what they wanted, and choose to have children.

Change doesn’t come from politicians because “it doesn’t play into the capitalist system” said Manika. But everyone had to “make changes in their own life so they can have integrity”.

After the demonstration had marched back to Parliament Square, protesters spontaneously marched past Downing Street and flooded into Trafalgar Square.

Chants became more urgent. People chanted “fuck CO2”, and, “Where the fuck is the government?”

“It’s amazing to be here,” said Helena at the foot of Nelson’s Column, as hundreds of strikers climbed the base of the monument.

“I’m so happy to be a part of it. This is our fight, our future and we are organising for it”.

Education

Strikers were dismissive of those who criticised students for missing school. “If they were doing something about climate change we wouldn’t have to miss our education,” said one.

Others carried placards saying “missing our education to educate” and “if you won’t act like adults we will”.

Some trade union branches were present including RMT European Passenger Serivces, Unison Homerton Hospital, NEU Newham, UCU London Metropolitan university and Hammersmith and Fulham Trades Council.

No Labour Party presence was on the march, and a few activists held Green Party signs.

Some protesters were striking for the first time—but others had been part of previous mobilisations. It was Zara’s first time “as we had exams before—but to get our voices heard we need more of us.”

Protesters demand climate action in Edinburgh

Protesters demand climate action in Edinburgh


Since the last climate strike, the government has declared a climate emergency—one of the demands from coordinators UK School Climate Network.

“It’s about time,” said striker Uma. “It’s good but I don’t think the government explained what it means.

Uma has been part of previous strikes and said the movement need to continue to develop internationally.

“It’s mostly richer countries that are causing climate change, but poor countries suffer the most,” she said.

As the demonstration marched back to Parliament Square strikers staged several sit-ins. Once cleared by police, the sit-in was quickly replaced by another sit-in—often much larger.

Meanwhile hundreds of strikers marched off to nearby College Green where TV crews were filming.

James from Chelmsford said it was important to target the media because “we live in a democracy so we need the media to spread our ideas”.

Although his friend Antonia points out that “they way the media portrayed the XR protest, the media tried to make them look unreasonable.”

This week’s action is likely to be followed by further student climate strikes throughout the summer.

It’s a positive step forward that student organisers are calling on workers to join them. There is a potential to build for a mass movement of strikes, protests and occupations that erupts in September.


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