Millions protest to save the planet

Submitted by Matthew on 25 September, 2019 - 10:42 Author: Gerry Bates
20sept

The numbers on the student climate strike demonstration in central London on 20 September were estimated by organisers at up to 100,000.

Similar huge crowds filled the streets in many cities across the world. In Sydney, Australia, for example, the turnout was also estimated at 100,000.

The protests were made up of school students, university students, people who took or already had days off work on the Friday, plus a significant minority of workers joining the protest, generally with the consent or support of their employers.

In England alone, there were dozens of other protests. We are not able to give a full picture, but here are a few local reports.

In Lambeth, south London, about 300 to 400 people joined a local protest in Windrush Square. Unison union members walked out from Lambeth Town Hall and Brixton Library. Lambeth’s Labour council declared support, and its deputy leader spoke.

There were union banners from Finsbury Park RMT, Lambeth & Southwark Unite Community, NEU, GMB, and Lambeth Trades Council. Lots of school students attended and several spoke before the crowd moved to the central London protest.

Our reporter from Sheffield estimates the crowd there at about 5,000. Lots of union banners, school students dominating the microphone and a lot of under-30s on the demo, plus a wider range of age groups. And a very good reception for socialist literature.

One odd episode:

“I saw a gang of people in the lanyards of a local translation firm, SDL. I asked the person identified as the leadership of the group how she brought people out: she explained, and made a point of saying ‘I didn’t want to encourage improper behaviour but…’

“I commented that a friend of mine was forced out of SDL by a hothouse culture and asked if there were any moves to creating a union at SDL? The interviewee said certainly not, and seemed affronted at the idea that unionising workplaces would be discussed at a ‘climate strike’…

“There is obviously a very big part of society that wants to connect to the climate strike movement, including in this dark satanic translation mill. So we have woke managers leading people out and yet opposing unions...”

Our reporter from Liverpool writes: “I’d guess around 2,500-3,000 people. The crowd seemed to be split 50/50 between school students or FE students and workers. The most obvious work place mobilisation came from Liverpool University, which organised a small feeder march of around 150...

“There were local Labour Party ward banners, and PCS, UCU, and Unison union banners and flags.

“An impromptu march around the centre of Liverpool was led by FE students around the centre of Liverpool for a good hour... As older workers peeled off the march to return to work, they were replaced by young people spontaneously joining the demonstration”.

Our reporter from Wakefield writes: “About 200 in attendance. The protest was supported by Wakefield Trades Council and all the local unions such as UNISON, GMB and the NEU. Local labour councillors and Labour MPs Jon Trickeyt and Mary Creagh spoke.

“There were many younger activists and many new faces. The protest gave the labour movement the chance to speak to new people and show the links between capitalism and climate change”.

A reporter from Cambridge writes: “The main demonstration — a march into town that ended with a ‘die-in’ and speeches on King’s Parade, with some welcome vibrancy from Cambridge Zero Carbon setting off flares from windows overhead — attracted perhaps as many as 3000 people, a large number given that most university students are not yet in town.

“A couple of us arranged a solidarity group photo for 2 p.m. on the West Cambridge site of the University, where the University conducts research and training for industrial sectors especially linked to climate change, such as the energy sector.

“That site is located quite far from the town centre (about 30 minutes’ walk), and we wanted to provide an opportunity for workers who wished to perform a walkout around lunchtime, but would not have time to travel to the main protests.

“We had over 100 people turn up, a good three times more than we were expecting. In the build-up we had gone into workplaces with posters and leaflets, speaking with people there to advertise the event.

“We had Cambridge UCU [the university workers’ union] back the action and they shared it with members via their communication channels. We had a few people on our radar send department or workplace emails with details of the event.

“Protesters stood behind the set of demands on the Cambridge Workers’ Climate Action banner: for a worker-led just transition; public ownership of energy, transport, and finance; sustainable, high-paid, unionised work... We have already received several emails from interested people.

“I think we reached far beyond ‘the usual suspects’ who attend protests”.

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