Teenagers are set to bring Bristol city centre to a standstill later this week in what they are describing as the biggest ‘school strike for climate’ the city has seen yet.
Students of all ages will leave their studies on Friday (September 20) for a day of protest at the Climate Crisis – the seventh time the monthly protest has taken place.
Previous demos have seen marches through the city centre, and angry scenes between protesters and some motorists. One truck driver had to be stopped by police as he attempted to drive through the sit-in by students on the road next to College Green.
The organisers of September’s event in Bristol said the idea of a school strike for climate, started by Greta Thunberg a couple of years ago, would be the first ‘Global General Strike’, and the students would be joined by trade unionists, teachers and community groups.
What are the protesters planning?
The event will be an all-day protest, which begins on College Green at around 10.45am, and will be based there for the rest of the day with speeches and live music.
At midday, those taking part in the protest will march around the city centre. While the exact route is as yet unconfirmed, it is likely it will follow the route of previous marches.
That will involve blocking the bottom of Park Street, College Green and into The Centre, turning right off Rupert Street into Quay Street and Nelson Street, and then marching around the Broadmead area via The Horsefair, Penn Street in front of Cabot Circus, and back along Castle Park via Newgate.
The route typically then heads to Bristol Bridge, before turning right again along Baldwin Street and back to The Centre and College Green.
Why are the students going on strike?
“After striking for months, it’s encouraging to see the government and council recognise the severity of the ecological crisis,” said one of the organisers, 17-year-old Bristol student Kai.
“Now they need to act accordingly. We know that they won’t do this unless we force them to. Although we are all angry, I think that we are fuelled by compassion; we’re fighting for the futures of everyone in Bristol, in England, and in the world,” he added.
Another student, Heulwen, 17, said they could catch up on their studies, but can’t reverse the ‘devastating impacts’ of the climate crisis.
“Innumerable studies and statistics are available to prove the ecological crisis which we currently face as a population,” she said.
“However, the only fact we need to take from this is: for those unable to directly make policy change, our sole weapon is our voices.
“On September 20, we must strike to call for an end to Governmental inaction. Declaring a state of climate emergency is just words if we don’t act accordingly,” she added.
(Image: Michael Lloyd Photography)
What is the council’s response?
Bristol ‘Youth Strike’ organisers have called on the city council in Bristol – which was the first in Britain to declare a climate emergency last year – to allow its staff to join the climate strike, but that idea received short shrift from Mayor Marvin Rees, when Green Party councillor Carla Denyer asked him to support council workers to leave their posts on Friday.
Mr Rees told Cllr Denyer (Green, Clifton Down) that staff would have to arrange with their managers and the council’s services were a priority.
“I’ve been clear in my support of the climate emergency – I’m proud of the work we’re doing on this to act and drive carbon neutrality in Bristol,” he told the council last week.
“If staff want to take the time out they would need to take leave and as always this would be with managers approval and service needs being paramount.
(Image: Michael Lloyd)
“Trade Unions in Bristol have a proud history of industrial action to defend and promote worker’s rights. A strike comes with risks and many trade unions members will be able to explain to you the hardship of losing pay to defend terms and conditions.
“It would be great if we could see the councillor for Clifton Down actually involving herself in solutions rather than continuously failing to understand the real challenge of actually acting now to tackle the climate emergency.
“She also has been noticeable in her absence when we have been dealing with social care, children in care, house building, hunger programmes, poverty and immediate challenges that people in Bristol face every day,” he added.
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