Greta Thunberg in Bristol: thousands turn out for climate strike.
Teenage activist tells huge crowd: ‘We will not be silenced because we are the change’
Tens of thousands of people, many of them children skipping school, braved heavy rain to join a climate strike headed by Greta Thunberg in Bristol city centre.
The vast crowd fell silent as the 17-year-old activist told them governments were acting like children and so it fell to young people to be “the adults in the room”.
Police said there were more than 15,000 people at the Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate event, while Thunberg estimated the figure as at least 30,000.
As Thunberg spoke, onlookers clambered on to bus shelters and up trees and hung out of windows to catch a glimpse.
Criticising governments and the media, she said: “Once again they sweep their mess under the rug for us – young people, their children – to clean up for them. We must continue and we have to be patient. Remember that the changes required will not happen overnight.”
Thunberg arrived in Bristol by train and was driven to the climate strike in a red Nissan Leaf electric car.
Wearing a yellow raincoat and woolly hat – a look copied by some of her devotees – she took to the stage to chants of “Greta, Greta” from schoolchildren and teenagers.
She told them: “We will not be silenced because we are the change, and change is coming whether you like it or not. This emergency is being completely ignored by the politicians, the media and those in power.
“Basically, nothing is being done to halt this crisis despite all the beautiful words and promises from our elected officials. So what did you do during this crucial time? I will not be silenced when the world is on fire.”
Thunberg flagged up the recent decision by north Somerset council to oppose Bristol airport expansion as an example of what could be achieved if activists worked together.
The Swedish teenager went on to join protesters on a march through the city centre accompanied by a samba band. She waved at well-wishers and at one point consoled a child who was clearly overwhelmed by the experience.
Avon and Somerset police had warned of the potential for protesters to be hurt and urged parents not to allow children to go unaccompanied.
Bristol Cathedral, which sits on College Green, was ready to open its doors to anyone needing refuge but the organisers insisted they had put enough measures in place to make sure nobody was hurt.
The poor weather did not dampen enthusiasm. Alison Thomson, who brought along her 10-year-old daughter, Emily, said: “I thought she might be a bit young but she said this would be her only chance to see [Thunberg] speak so I agreed.”
Emily said: “I think it’s really important that people understand what is happening to the Earth.” She was returning to school after the event to give a presentation on climate change.
Isaac and Maya Swann, 11 and 15, had persuaded their mother, Karen Davies, to bring them along. Maya said: “We want to help make a change. Greta’s really brave and inspirational, giving up part of her childhood to spread this message. It was cold and wet but it is was worth it. It was exciting to see how many people care.”
Davies said: “I was against them taking time off school but last night they came to me and said they felt if I was their age I would be there. They were right. I’d be in the thick of it. I sent an email to the school and they were supportive. I think many schools see it as educational. It was a lovely experience … It’s good to see that so many people can be inspired by one girl.”
Hannah Burge, 12, and Harvey Hennessy, 16, have organised school strikes in Barnstaple, north Devon. Their biggest turnout has been 850. “It’s been amazing seeing so many people here,” said Hannah. “Greta is such a role model for us.”
Mya-Rose Craig, 17, an ornithologist who recently became the youngest person in the UK to be awarded an honorary doctorate, said: “It’s so cool to see so many thousands of young people here ready to fight for our future.”
Ed Thompson, a housemaster at Clifton college, took overseas boarders aged 11-13 and the school’s “green team” to the event. He said: “We have discussed Greta’s influence in school, and she is a true icon to all ages for her passion, determination, tenacity and likability. The word ‘inspiration’ is too often used, but she is a guiding light to the next generation for peaceful but powerful activism, and encouraging love and care for our environment, which is such a strong message for young people.”
The crowd was swollen by many students who were missing lectures, tutorials and lab sessions. But it was not just young people who attended. There were groups of doctors, nurses and even a collective of wildlife film-makers.
One moment of tension came when police equipped with video cameras moved through the crowd pointing their lenses at strikers, including a group from the Public and Commercial Services Union.
Some employers had turned a blind eye to workers taking time to attend. Good Energy, a green energy company from Chippenham in Wiltshire, went further by actively telling its 250-strong workforce to join the strike.
The mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, tweeted:
*Title video :'We will not be silenced': Greta Thunberg joins young climate activists in Bristol
28 February 2020