Socialist Worker

School strikers and Extinction Rebellion take joint action against climate catastrophe

by Sarah Bates and Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2664

Hundreds of school students kept up the battle

Hundreds of school students kept up the battle (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Powerful strikes by school students and action by Extinction Rebellion (XR) united on Friday, in the fight against climate catastrophe.

The day marked the sixth “youth strike for the climate” in Britain—part of the global Fridays For Future movement of millions of school students.

In London around 300 strikers braved pouring rain to march around the capital. The action attracted some who had never struck before. Claudia told Socialist Worker, “This is the first time I’ve been on strike.

“I came because I feel like I don’t know that much about climate change and I wanted to learn more. I’m interested in things like veganism too.

“It’s scary what might happen if climate change gets worse. I think a lot of things need to change.”

Friday was also the culmination of XR’s “Summer Uprising” which saw occupations in the centre of five city centres.

Hundreds of XR activists—many of who camped out at the Millennium Green park near Waterloo, marched from the occupation to join the striking school students.

School strikes—a climate of hope
School strikes—a climate of hope
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Peter from Wandsworth, south London, had taken part in activity throughout the five day long Summer Uprising.

“I volunteered for a night shift at the camp because my years as a postman taught me it’s hard to get people to do those shifts,” he said.

He told Socialist Worker that his involvement with XR began during April’s wildly successful International Rebellion.

“I only went down to Oxford Circus to go and take photos but within ten minutes I was lying underneath the “tell the truth” boat.

“I was involved with political activists in the late 1970s and early 1980s but then I got married, had kids and life seemed to get in the way. I joined in because it felt like XR finally looked like a grassroots movement.”

John McDonnell joined the activists at the “Polly Higgins” boat parked outside the Old Vic theatre.

Cops banned the boat from joining the demonstration in case activists locked themselves to it.

McDonnell told Socialist Worker, “When XR started I was overjoyed—the direct action has raised the profile of climate change. It helped secure a resolution on climate emergency.

Its an urgent task

It's an urgent task (Pic: Guy Smallman)

“The campaign has come under attack from the right, which is a reflection of the success of the campaign. Now it’s about how to translate that into action.

“The next zero 2050 target needs to be brought forward—it’s not good enough.”

Other XR members are keen to get workers involved in the action. Alex came on the demonstration in his doctor’s scrubs and with a stethoscope around his neck.

“I’m wearing my doctor’s uniform because doctors read and act on evidence. Evidence shows we change things through mass civil disobedience,” he said.

“I don’t think the climate emergency has sunk in yet my workplace. But the idea of workers taking action on 20 September is fantastic—it’s what everyone should be doing.

“When strikers walk out it creates a dilemma for the boss—just like XR creates a dilemma for the police and governments.”

Strike to stop climate chaos
Strike to stop climate chaos
  Read More

Huge cheers erupted through Whitehall when school strikers and XR met and occupied the road together.

Saoirse had come along “because people need to pay more attention to what’s happening”.

“I read about climate change in a student newspaper,” she told Socialist Worker. “I think the strikes are making a difference. People are starting to listen.”

Her mum Eimear added, “I was a bit sceptical about her coming at first. She had to write to her head teacher about it. It’s a big deal—this is her last day of school. But she really wanted to do it, and at the end of the day I think you’ve got to support them.”

The strike was smaller than previous school strikes, maybe because of the time of year and many GCSE students having finished exams. Some strikers said that the lack of advertising by organisers UK School Climate Network doesn’t help build big actions.

But the heavy rain didn’t dampen strikers’ spirits as they marched through the streets. College student Preeti told Socialist Worker, “The politicians think they can keep pushing the issue under the carpet.

If we keep going, we can show them that we’re not going to go away. This is an issue that isn’t limited to just one country—it’s a global problem.

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