School children and students took to the streets of Brighton to protest against the Government’s handling of climate change last Friday, February 15.
The event, which is part of a wider global movement, was organised by Youth Strike 4 Climate and also took place in cities around the UK including London, Cambridge, Sheffield and Belfast.
The BBC reported that protests took place in more than 60 locations, with around 15,000 people taking part.
The movement began in August 2018 when 15 year-old Swedish school student Greta Thunberg refused to go to school after wildfires and heat-waves sparked concern over the Swedish Government’s environmental policy. She then demanded the Swedish Government reduce carbon emissions and continued to strike on Fridays, which grabbed global attention.
Since this initial protest, thousands of people in various countries across Europe have engaged in the student climate change protest movement under the names School Strike for Climate, Youth for Climate, and Fridays for Future.
In Brighton city centre, large numbers of protesters congregated at the Clock Tower where the march began. Protesters then made their way towards The Level via the town centre and London Road. There were reports of scuffles on London Road near Aldi, however this soon dissipated.
The march eventually stopped at The Level where speeches were made by environmentalists, researchers, students and politicians.
Many of the pupils in attendance came with hand-crafted signs. Some read “Stop destroying my children’s future”, “There is Hope” and “No place for Apathy”, and others reading, “Oceans are rising and so are we” and “Climate change is worse than homework”.
There were also chants of “Climate action now” and “I say Tories, you say out”.
One speaker at the protest, Associate Lecturer in Property Law at the Open University Law School, Ketan Jha, told The Badger, “All of us have something to learn from this unprecedented mobilisation of young people against government intransigence. These children should inspire hope that grassroots organisation can help force the kinds of political shifts necessary for a sustainable future.”
At the event one pupil told The Badger, “I think it’s the most important issue because everything that happens relies on the planet. We’re all here to get our voices heard because we’re not normally able to.”
Another student told The Badger, “I’m going on strike to make these problems like climate change and global warming more in the news and helping people realise how serious it is because it is really serious”. They also said that they were “trying to make a statement loud enough that everyone can hear it.”
Social media clearly played an important role in the organisation of the protest, with spokesperson for the University of Sussex ‘Socialist Students’ society telling The Badger “We heard about it through social media and things like which I think to be the main way it was promoted” and with one pupil saying they heard about the protest “On social media, it was shared a lot around from different schools and colleges”.
Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion constituency, Caroline Lucas, also made a speech at the event, and told The Badger “Our children recognise that this is a climate emergency. They are striking because they know we cannot carry on as normal.
“Young people are watching as droughts, floods and storms devastate communities across the globe every day. They are watching as thousands of species go extinct. And they are watching the adults who run the world carry on as normal.
“Teachers work hard to prepare students for their future – but right now that future is at serious risk. It’s inspiring that this generation is already taking action to build a fairer, safer world. Those in government now must follow their lead.”
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn posted on Twitter after the protest, “Climate change is the greatest threat that we all face but it is the school kids of today whose futures are most on the line. They are right to feel let down by the generation before them and it’s inspiring to see them making their voice heard today. #SchoolStrike4Climate”.
Also involved in organising the protest was Society and Citizenship Officer for Sussex Student Union, Aisling Murray, who told The Badger “The energy at the Youth Strike 4 Climate demonstration in Brighton on Friday was absolutely mind blowing! There were over 1000 young people from schools, colleges and unis from across Brighton and Hove, Lewes and even as far as Eastbourne.
“There was a clear understanding that the effects of climate change are not equal and that this is as much a class, race and gender issue as it is an environmental one. We are so excited for the next strike on Friday 15th March and we hope many more Sussex students will come out and join us!”
Students at the University of Sussex have also shared their views on the protest with The Badger. Third year Sociology student Liberty Davidson, 21, said, “I agree with what they are striking about! I think it’s fantastic that the young people in our schools today are so passionate about the world they live on, and I think it’s even more amazing that they’re willing to take a stand and march like they did.
“I hope more is done with this strike, a strike is an amazing start but I think more needs to be done, not just from the students, but the rest of us as a whole, in any way we can”.
Another Sussex student, third year politics undergraduate Joseph Stephens, 21, said “I think it’s a fantastic way for the younger generation to voice their opinion on what is undoubtedly the most pressing issue faced globally. Their ability to exercise political power to really change or even to affect their own lives is verging on minuscule, so this strike is showing the powers that be that young people are politicised, tuned into the global world, and ready to fight those they don’t believe in.”
“Given the progressive nature of the strike and the regressive nature of Andrea Leadsom’s government response, it is of little question who they will be voting for when they can finally vote.”
Up and down the country there were similar scenes. Large numbers of students congregated in London’s Parliament Square and outside the Cambridge County Council offices, the BBC reported.