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Over 200 protesters gathered in Parliament Square in London on Friday demanding government action over the climate crisis. The protest was organised by members of Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement, as part of a series of similar events across the world.
The demonstrators, many of them young people who had skipped school in order to take part, marched through Westminster calling for the abandonment of fossil fuels and a more effective response by the government to the global emergency.
The protest included speeches from Labour MP Nadia Whittome, former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
‘No more greenwashing’
Addressing the crowd of young protesters, Mr Corbyn said that the Cop26 summit in Glasgow in November would be “a week-long festival of greenwash” if voices were not raised over climate change.
“The crisis over gas at the present time is a crisis of the stupidity of a market, the stupidity of privatisation, and the stupidity of saying there’s no alternative but the system we have right now,” Mr Corbyn added.
His comments were met with cheers from the crowd as he insisted that environmental politics should not be treated as separate from other political concerns, and that the poorest in the world and in society were likely to be affected the most by the consequences of climate change.
Ms Whittome told protesters that “individual action” would not solve the climate crisis.
“No more greenwashing, fossil fuels must stay in the ground, our energy must be 100 per cent renewable, and the destruction of our forests must end,” she said. “We literally cannot continue to live on a planet in a society that puts profits before planets and people.”
After the speeches in Parliament Square, protesters marched through Westminster chanting: “Whose streets? Our streets!” and stopping traffic along the route, which was heavily policed throughout the day.
In Germany, where a national election is due to be held on Sunday, tens of thousands of protesters – both adults and youngsters – took part in similar events across towns and cities.
The largest of these took place outside the Reichstag in Berlin, and was attended by Ms Thunberg, who addressed the crowd from a stage, saying that while voting is important, it is equally vital to sustain pressure on politicians through protests.
“We can still turn this around,” she said. “We demand change, and we are the change.”
The climate crisis has been a major topic throughout Germany’s election campaign, with activists calling Sunday’s election the “vote of the century”, saying that its result will affect environmental policy for decades to come.
Similar protests have also been taking place in other countries, including Japan, India, Turkey and the Czech Republic.
‘The government is not listening’
Becky Truscott, who had joined the protest with her two children – one of whom was missing school in order to attend – said the government must be held to account over climate action.
“Boris Johnson made a very nice speech yesterday in America. It totally [contradicted] what he’s been saying in his articles as a journalist,” Ms Truscott said. “But knowing what’s going on behind the scenes, I question how much conviction is behind that. You’re calling on the developing world to divest from fossil fuels, but you’re not cleaning up your act in your own country.”
Ms Truscott’s 12-year-old daughter, May, said: “What’s more important, one day of school or trying to convince our government that we need to keep our planet healthy and need it to survive?”
Ms Truscott, who has four children, said her 12-year-old daughter was a “diligent student”, who would catch up with the school work she was missing but saw it as important to be in the ranks of protesters demanding a better future.
“I think we need more representation here; the government is not really listening to what we need to do. I don’t think there are enough people here sticking up for themselves and getting their voices in,” May added.
The demonstration was also attended by older protesters calling on the government to act.
Members of Extinction Rebellion Grandparents and Elders said they were standing in solidarity with young people.
“We want to show we care about young people’s futures, because the government just isn’t acting quickly enough. We’re here as a presence to say not enough is being done,” grandparent Mary-Anne told The Independent.
Elijah McKenzie-Jackson, 17, told The Independent that the Fridays for Future movement was a “lifeline for the planet”.
The teenager said he had directed his efforts into finding solutions to environmental problems after becoming depressed about the climate crisis.
“For young people, it came down to realising politicians aren't listening, they're not listening to the science,” Mr McKenzie said.
The school strikes movement was started by Ms Thunberg, whose protest outside the Swedish parliament in 2018 inspired young people all over the world to demand government action over climate change.