Cries of “No more fossil fuels” echoed through Whitehall on Friday as hundreds of teenagers marched for climate justice.
The school climate strikes were the fifth mobilisation in Britain as part of the Fridays for Future movement sweeping the world.
In Britain the action was organised by coordinators UK Schools Climate Network (UKSCN).
On Westminster Bridge, strikers held a series of prolonged sit-ins and hosted an open mike session. Despite repeated attempts by police to bully them to move, activists were more resilient to intimidation from cops then they have been on previous demonstrations.
Striker Izzy addressed the crowd. She said “in society the word ‘youth’ is synonymous with ‘naive’. But we are rewriting that narrative. We are showing young people can organise a global movement.
“We strike because it is the only voice we have, so yes, we will continue to protest and take action because silence is not an option. We are powerful,” she declared to huge applause from strikers.
Ella said a key demand should be setting up climate bodies inside schools. “I call on everyone here to go back to their schools on Monday, tell them we want to strike and we want a climate change committee,” she said.
A widespread feeling that young people’s futures are being pushed aside ran through the demonstration.
“Today is about youth empowerment. We have been ignored again and again,” said Theo.
When cops tried to move strikers on during a sit-in at parliament, one striker grabbed the microphone.
“The police are telling we have to stop protesting,” she said. But we have to stop the traffic because they’re not doing anything.”
Cops brought police horses and vans for the first time—but were met with more confidence from strikers than on previous occasions.
One cop was heard saying to another “I just don’t know what we can say to get them to move.”
A key date for strikers—and for all trade unionists—is 20 September. That’s the date that that the Fridays for Future movement has called on workers to join its action.
On the eve of the student strike trade unionists thrashed out ways to build support for September’s action in a meeting called by Campaign against Climate Change (CaCC).
Frances from the UKSCN trade union outreach group told the meeting that “We’ve shown when we stand together we’re powerful. They’re not going to do anything unless we pressure them—and to keep that pressure up we need you guys, we need everyone.”
Suzanne Jeffery, CaCC chair said the school strikes movement has transformed the profile of climate change activism.
“School strikers have given us an education on climate change” she said.“I have to pinch myself at the conversations now taking place—they’ve inspired us”.
Trade unionists from the PCS, NEU, Unison, NUJ and other unions discussed how to get action off the ground during September.
Some have begun raising the idea of unofficial action despite anti-trade union legislation. A week of action is planned from 20 September, culminating in the Earth Strike on 27 September.
Workers should start organising now for action.
A huge strike at the beginning of the week will be the critical factor building momentum for the later actions.
Students are keen for workers to join their struggle.
“Adults aren’t doing what they should. They need to change how society works,” said Amelia from North London.
Leila said that workers coordinating action in September was important. “It’s good people are joining in—adults are listened to more. And we need more people, more unity—there’s strength in numbers.”