At least 30,000 school climate strikers and their supporters filled the streets of Bristol on Friday to march alongside Greta Thunberg.
Thunberg spoke to the crowd assembled on College Green before leading the march around the city.
“Still this emergency is being ignored by politicians, the media and those in power,” she said.
“I will not stand aside and watch, I will not be silenced while the world is on fire—will you?”
Her speech was a rallying cry for everyone to join the climate movement.
“If you look throughout history, all the great changes have come from the people,” she said. “We are being betrayed by the people in power and they are failing us but we will not back down
“Activism works, so I’m telling you to act.”
It was the biggest march in Bristol for years. It gridlocked the city centre.
It was bigger than the 6,000-strong 20 September mobilisation in the city and bigger than the 20,000-strong pensions strike demonstration in 2011.
Many on the strike expressed frustration at the patronising attitude of some adults toward them.
Freya, who has recently left school, branded adults who dismiss climate strikers as “ridiculous”.
“They’re the ones ignoring the facts,” she said. “But I think this pressure is starting to force them to act—we have to hope more is coming.”
The march through Bristol was similar in character to earlier school climate strike mobilisations.
The biggest contingent was of teenagers—many of them arriving with their friends in school uniforms.
Small groups of teenagers ran through the streets—some climbing up scaffolding, bus stops and even buildings to lead the chants.
Mohammad was on his first climate strike. “The school didn’t let us go, but today the school was pressured to let us come. They basically have to, because it’s Greta Thunberg,” he said.
“I feel like, realistically, people look down on her, because she’s seen as a kid but she is actually doing something to help. Without her, without all these protests, people wouldn’t be as aware.”
There were flags from the Unison union and a banner from the PCS union’s Natural England branch.
I will not be silenced while the world is on fire—will you?
Extinction Rebellion symbols were dotted throughout the crowd and there were large blocs focused on veganism and green energy.
Many people braving the pouring rain had never been on a protest before, but the atmosphere in the city had reached fever pitch over the past week, drawing new layers in.
“It feels great to be here, it’s almost like a festival and it makes me quite emotional to be here, because everyone cares,” said Rhian.
“It’s brilliant to see everyone come together for one cause. It’s good she’s here but this about more than just Greta,” said Katie.
Chants of “Whose future? Our future” filled the streets—tapping into the rage of a generation who feel they’ve been left to inherit climate horror.
“We’re worried because it’s our future,” said school student Jamia.
Alice said, “It’s not just the adults—everyone has contributed toward climate change, I know I have. But it’s just whether you’re responsible enough and mature enough to deal with it.”
Many activists spoke about the recent victory to halt Bristol airport expansion as a step in the right direction.
“We need more people on public transport, more cycle paths and things like that,” Alice suggests.
Although undoubtedly it was the power of Thunberg that pulled thousands of people on to the streets, the scale of the mobilisation shows there is a mood to fight.
And with the next climate strike fast approaching on 13 March, every day should be spent building action for climate justice.
As Freya said, “If this is what needs to be done, we’re going to keep doing it.”
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