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Fridays for Future, the global youth movement launched by Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg, is launching a series of events to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The group plans to kick off a series of rallies on Thursday in more than 40 cities, with the list growing rapidly since the effort was announced Monday evening.
“All across the world, people are taking to the streets,” Dominika Lasota, a 20-year-old student at the University of Warsaw in Poland and a climate justice activist with Fridays for Future, told Yahoo News. “It’s quite surreal to see it all unfolding, because it has felt like such a dark time — but still, Fridays for Future rises up to that.”
The group is known for its trademark “youth strikes” in which students walk out of classes to call for action against climate change. In this case, the activists will interrupt their daily lives to protest against war.
“We are running a demonstration at 12 p.m., in the middle of the day, because the lives of the Ukrainian people have been stopped, not by their choice,” Lasota said. “We also want to stop our lives in solidarity with them.” Activists chose Thursday because it marks one week since the unprovoked invasion.
Warsaw is one of seven cities in Poland where protests are planned. Cities in Germany, Portugal, Italy and Nigeria, among other countries, also plan to hold demonstrations over the events in Ukraine.
Poland shares a border with Ukraine and, in addition to having a long-established Ukrainian community, has already received an influx of more than a half million refugees fleeing Russia’s brutal military invasion.
“Warsaw currently is a base of tens and tens of thousands of refugees coming over from Ukraine,” Lasota noted. “Every day, I walk around the city now, and I see many, many people being lost, arriving at the train station, and trying to find their way in a completely new place. And we also have had a tremendously strong Ukrainian community for many years now. On Thursday, we are hosting the strike in solidarity and close collaboration with the Ukrainian community here. Ukrainian voices, refugee voices, will be leading that demonstration, and we as Fridays will be just the host, providing logistics to make it happen.”
Although the regional conflict might seem distinct from climate change, the young activists see the two issues as stemming from the same problem: the world’s thirst for fossil fuels. The group argues that the European Union has not been able to counteract Russia with full-fledged economic sanctions because of the trading bloc’s dependence on Russian oil and gas.
“Political leaders can take the side of people or of money, greed and the fossil fuel industry,” a call to action released by Fridays for Future stated. “We call on global leaders to stop financing Putin's whims, and end the import of oil, coal and gas from Russia. We also call for the end of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline — once and for all.”
The organization is currently in discussions about shifting the focus of an already planned global day of protest on March 25 from climate change to the war. Lasota said that Thunberg has been in touch with Ukrainian activists from the group and is in support of the antiwar protests.
“Our narrative, ‘people over profit,’ that we planned to center the 25th of March mobilization around ... still holds, whether we apply it to the climate crisis and the fact that fossil fuels are still leading the way and not climate action and safety of the people, or whether you apply it to the war in Ukraine, where on one side we have a man who is just in search of more power and more profits,” Lasota said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “And he does everything against the people: his people, but the people of Ukraine most of all.”
Fridays for Future anticipates holding more demonstrations around the world in addition to Thursday’s youth strike and the one on March 25.
“We’ll be continuing to take it to the streets,” said Lasota. “There’s a potential mobilization happening in Russia, actually, but this is to be confirmed.”