Youth Strike for Climate

Today (Friday 15th Feb 2019), school kids across the UK took part in a coordinated Youth Strike for Climate. Raising the issue of climate change through peaceful protest and not going to school. It received both support and criticism, and police say there were two arrests.

An estimated 15,000 young people across more than 60 UK towns and cities have refused to attend school today, as part of a national Youth Strike to raise awareness of climate change. The movement has been largely inspired by Swedish student Greta Thunburg who made headlines in August 2018 for starting the first school strike for climate outside the Swedish parliament building. Today’s strikes in the UK aimed to echo Greta’s strike from August, and there was a significant presence throughout central London, with the other largest protests being held in Brighton, Oxford, and Exeter.

UK Student Climate Network, one of the organising groups, has four key demands:

  • The government should declare a “climate emergency”
  • It should also inform the public about the seriousness of the situation
  • The national curriculum should be reformed to include “the ecological crisis”
  • The age of voting should be lowered to 16 so younger people can be involved in decision-making around environmental issues.

Layla Moran, a Liberal Democrat MP, and former Teacher, wrote an article in support of the protests for The Independent, saying; “As a former teacher, I know how frustrating it must be to watch students walk out of class, particularly if they have important exams on the horizon. But, given the gravity and urgency of this issue, I support this strike, and the students, wholeheartedly.”

But Education Secretary Damian Hinds warned students they should not miss lessons to take part in the strikes.

I want young people to be engaged in key issues affecting them and involving themselves in causes they care about. But let me be clear, missing class won’t do a thing to help the environment; all they will do is create extra work for teachers.

Damian Hinds, UK Government Education Secretary

There have been reports on Social Media that participants of the strike have been arrested this afternoon;

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson told me this evening;

There were two arrests:

A 19-year-old man has been arrested for obstruction of the highway.
A 17-year-old youth has been arrested for a public order offence.

Press Bureau, Directorate of Media and Communication, New Scotland Yard

It’s important to recognise that this is the official number from the Police however it has been disputed by a volunteer for protest support project Green and Black Cross, who told me that they’ve received information of at least 4 arrests related to the Strikes, of which 3 arrestees were under 18.

More than 200 academics supported the strikes publically, signing a letter to the Guardian newspaper.

Cover photo: Youth Climate protests in London. Photo by Sarah Cope, used with permission.