“What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!”
The chants of thousands of school students who converged on Sydney’s Town Hall today (15 March) to demand action on climate change were a deafening response to politicians, including NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who had called them “grossly irresponsible” for missing school.
As placards were raised to the skies and protesters’ voices rang out, student speakers on the steps of the Town Hall delivered their messages. “As students, we’re sick of being ignored, sick of our future being turned into a political football,” declared one young woman.
“That’s why we’re striking – to make our generation’s voices heard, and to demonstrate our collective power.”
The rally was one of dozens scheduled to be held around the country today: in country towns and cities as well as the nation’s capitals. Internationally, school student protests were due to be held in 90 countries.
In Sydney, streets were blocked off, and passers-by cheered and applauded as the protesters marched down George Street towards Town Hall. There, speakers included the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore.
Young people of all ages joined the rally, with smaller children held aloft by parents or grandparents. Teenagers, many of them in school blazers or regulation stripey dresses, clambered up trees or lampposts for a better view of the massive crowd.
Year 10 student Elsie Loadman, from Manly Selective, said: “Our politicians are not really listening – they are putting forward plans that aren’t doing enough. Experts are saying that we are living in an earth that we are killing. Politicians just need to acknowledge that climate change is an issue.”
Oscar Crossleymeates, 11, who attended the rally with four siblings and cousins, along with their grandfather, said: “We should have a say. The politicians need to do something about climate change, because this is the only planet we have. There’s no Planet B.”
The “strike” follows a similar one held last November, and comes ahead of next weekend’s NSW election and the federal election, expected in mid-May, where climate change is expected to be a major issue.
The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, last month announced a $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund, seen as an attempt to woo voters dissatisfied with the Coalition Government’s action on climate change.
Many protesters at the rally wore “Stop Adani” T-shirts – a reference to the massive new coal mine planned for Central Queensland.
According to nine-year-old Eli Cuniosearborough: “We need to keep fighting as hard as we can and then we might achieve what we want.”
School Strike for Climate rally, Sydney (Photos: Zoe Grech, Ari Kimber, Kathy Marks)