Young activists march through Glasgow to demand climate justice

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Thousands of young activists have marched through the streets of Glasgow to demand action on climate change from politicians at Cop26.

The climate strike was organised by Fridays for Future Scotland who said they were demanding climate justice and seeking to hold global leaders to account.

Participants marched from Kelvingrove Park to George Squarge, passing the Cop26 venue at the SEC on the way.

Campaigner Greta Thunberg was among the protesters on the march, and is due to speak to crowds in George Square alongside fellow activist Vanessa Nakate, other young campaigners, and trade unionists.

It comes as the Cop26 talks feature events highlighting the voice of young people and education in climate action.

At least 8,000 people were expected to take part in the march.

But in London, Downing Street said young people missing school to attend the demonstration was “extremely disruptive at a time when the pandemic has already had a huge impact on their learning”.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: “We do understand why young people feel so strongly about climate change, and we want to see them use that passion and turn it into action.

“That’s exactly why we’re empowering them through our new virtual national education park, climate leaders awards, and giving teachers the tools to put climate change at the heart of the curriculum, and we’re backing this up with our continued pledge to cut the carbon footprint of school buildings as well.”

Thousands of people joined Friday’s march (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)
Thousands of people joined Friday’s march (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)

Earlier, UK Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi suggested those taking part could face fines.

Asked on Times Radio whether he had been invited to join the marches, Mr Zahawi said: “No… I have to say, I wish they were doing it on a Saturday and a Sunday, not in school time.

“I’d hate to get into a situation where headteachers and teachers are having to fine families and students.”

Ms Thunberg has been highly critical of the two-week conference, claiming it is the most “excluding Cop ever” and labelling it a “two-week celebration of business as usual and blah blah blah”.

Charlie O’Rourke, 14, from Glasgow, skipped school to attend the march with his mother, Cairsty O’Rourke, and sister, Edith.

Greta Thunberg, centre, was among those on the march (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)
Greta Thunberg, centre, was among those on the march (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)

He said global leaders at Cop26 must “listen to the people”.

He told the PA news agency: “Listen to what they want to say. Don’t just go for profit. Listen to what the planet needs.”

His mother said she was there for her children and for “the generations to come to just show that something has to happen and it has to happen very quickly”.

Ms O’Rourke, who is from Glasgow and works for the NHS, said the Scottish Government has been “on the fence for too long” on the issue of the Cambo oilfield.

She added: “I’d like to hear Nicola Sturgeon saying a bit more against it. I’d like all of this funding to go into a way out of this, a way out of using fossil fuels.”

Protesters came armed with placards to help get their views across (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)
Protesters came armed with placards to help get their views across (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)

Finlay Pringle, 14, from Ullapool in the Scottish Highlands, travelled by train to Glasgow with his father to take part in the march.

He said: “If you really, truly love something and you want to protect it, no matter what it is, it doesn’t have to be climate striking, but if there’s something that you love and you want to protect it, then you should do that, don’t think twice about it.”

One protester rolled through the streets of Glasgow in a globe made from twisted metal.

The hollow sphere was made by German artist Arne Drosser, who walked inside it over three months to get to the Cop26 conference.

He said: “In one way the sphere is our Earth, in other ways it is about network – we are all connected all around the world with the same problems caused by climate change.”

People of all ages joined the youth-focused protest.

Among them were a group of mothers from around the world, including Rosamund Adoo Kissi Debrah, whose daughter Ella died from an asthma attack as a result of severe air pollution.

The group will also be handing in a letter at Cop26 calling for an end to new fossil fuel financing for the sake of their children’s health and future.

Demonstrators gathered in Kelvingrove Park in the west end of Glasgow for the Fridays for Future Scotland march (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)
Demonstrators gathered in Kelvingrove Park in the west end of Glasgow for the Fridays for Future Scotland march (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)

Friday’s protest came ahead of marches on Saturday when tens of thousands of people are again expected in Glasgow, with other marches in London and cities around the UK, as well as across the world.

Police have warned they will deal “swiftly and robustly” with any violent disorder or damage to property during planned Cop26 protests in Glasgow over the coming days.

Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Gary Ritchie said officers have engaged with key campaign groups to ensure the protests can take place safety, but they will quickly crack down on any problems if need be.

The protests come at the end of the first week of the conference, where countries are under pressure to increase ambition on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and to ensure finance for poor countries to tackle the crisis.

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