Hundreds gathered in Durham on Friday, as part of the global climate strike led by Greta Thunberg. Durham Youth Strike led a crowd that filled Market Square with songs and chants, alongside speakers varying from vicars to councillors.
Many young people missed school to attend the strike, and gathered on the steps of Durham’s Lord Londonderry statue to display their placards.
Sixth formers took turns on the microphone to lead the crowd, which was the largest gathering for the climate strikes in Durham so far.
“Ocean’s rising. So are we!” chanted Oscar, a local sixth form pupil. In a speech to the crowd, he said “Climate change isn’t just something you put on the back burner. It’s something that as a country, as a nation, as a European Union and as a globe we need to consider all the issues it brings with us. The amazon rainforest has been burning for weeks now – how long before it effects us? This is our home, this is where people like me are going to be living in the future. I’m only sixteen and I want to be able to live my life. And I want my kids to be able to too”.
Nicholas, another local sixth form student, was deeply involved in organising the strike, and confirmed that this was a more successful demonstration than he had expected, “I think what we’ve shown is that it’s actually quite big.
“This is excellent and I hope it continues. Let’s keep up the momentum. I think it’s great we’ve got support from other generations; it shows we’re not on our own in this struggle.”
The crowd varied in ages, with a mixture of schoolchildren, pensioners, parents, employees and university students, including Nora and Cal from Jon Snow College, Durham.
“I came to one of their protests last year, and it was like two people stood there angrily because no one showed up apart from them, and that was quite disappointing – but this is amazing”, said Nora.
“Have you seen that girl holding a sign that says ‘Learn to change or learn to swim’? And she looks really tiny!” added Cal, “I wish I’d brought a sign now, but that’s also kind of scary because obviously you draw more attention to yourself”.
“I wish that university and colleges promoted this kind of stuff more. Obviously the scale of a walkout we could do as a university could be so much bigger than this. I emailed [Durham Student Union] last year but I got no response. It would be good if the colleges got more involved because I think loads of people would want to take part in something like this but just don’t know it’s happening.”
The demonstration was organised by collaboration between Durham Green Party, Durham Extinction Rebellion and the Durham Youth Strike for Climate. As the protest wound down, a spokesman announced on behalf of Durham Extinction Rebellion that “The next big thing is a gathering of thousands of people in London this October. We need to disrupt business as usual because we can’t go on as we are, and it’s going to be a lot worse if the environmental inspired social collapse comes about. We’re Extinction Rebellion, we have a branch in Durham and we hope to see you at a meeting soon.”
The protest was part of 200 similar events held across the UK, as well as more internationally.
Photography provided by Anna Marshall