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Unprecedented Climate Change strike held in York

The march included live music and open-mic speeches

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Image Credit: Patrick Walker

University of York students, sabbs, and YUSU trustees joined schoolchildren today in striking for climate justice across the nation. The weather was unseasonably warm as hundreds congregated in York in St Helen’s square to begin the march that would take them across the city. It emerged earlier this week that while schoolchildren had been discouraged from striking on the grounds that it caused “excessive disruption”, University of York staff had been permitted a short amount of time off by the new Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Charlie Jeffery CBE.

The march was completely peaceful, and included speeches from young children, as well as live music and speeches from older community organisers. Trade unions like Unite and the TUC Congress made appearances, and the Green and Labour parties also threw their weight behind the protest. This is the first time that adults have been actively encouraged to join a protest that has been largely spearheaded by schoolchildren and university students. York, and York St John lecturers also participated in the march, although they declined to comment to Nouse.

Speaking to Nouse, YUSU President Samara Jones was optimistic about the incoming Vice-Chancellor’s agenda for climate change. “I’m hopeful there will be quite a few positive announcements during the speech in Freshers’ week”. It was a sentiment echoed by Merry Dickinson, one of York’s Environment and Ethics Part-Time Officers. “The new Vice-Chancellor, from what I’ve heard, is very aware of the climate emergency, and wants to take action. It gives me a lot of hope.”

The protest was not localised strictly to York, or even the UK. Protests are also taking place at events across Europe, and a strike has also begun in Australia for the first time. Two protesters were arrested earlier today in London after they broke restrictions on where to protest. Explaining the purpose of the strike, Merry said: “We’re here to strike for the climate, and against the lack of action by governments all around the world. The UN climate emergency summit is coming up in just three days, and it shows that we really need climate action now. Everyone is demanding it, all around the world.”

With the entire YUSU sabb team in attendance, Community & Wellbeing Officer Steph Hayle added: “we live in York. We’re a city that floods, and quite frankly, if we can’t deal with the climate emergency, we’re going to be feeling its effects very quickly.” “We want to support students, not just students at the University, but students across the country...  to show solidarity with the younger generation.” Just metres from the main stage, an older woman was wielding a sign that read ‘boomers strike in solidarity’.

Nouse also caught up with the representative for York Central, and Shadow Transport Minister, Rachael Maskell MP, who was frustrated to not be in Parliament to debate climate change. “It’s an absolute disgrace that Parliament has been shut down, when we should be there discussing climate change.” “The fact that we are being silenced means that we have got to take to the streets”. Maskell had held a ‘People’s Parliament’ in the same square the week before.

Asked whether the strikes would affect change in the incumbent Conservative government’s energy policy, Maskell was defiant. “If the current government doesn’t listen, then we will give them our message at the ballot box.” “I believe in the power of people, and young people will have their say.” Part-Time Officer Merry agreed: “the government in power is completely ignoring it. We will continue taking action until the government does something.”

Extinction Rebellion have planned more protests for the month of October. Our full interview with Rachael Maskell MP in St Helen's Square is available here.

Image Credit: Patrick Walker

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