On Friday an estimated 25,000 people including climate activist Greta Thunberg marched through Glasgow for climate justice, in a protest organised by Fridays for Future (FFF). FFF is a youth-led and organised climate action group inspired by Thunberg’s original climate protest in Sweden in 2018.
The march began at 11am at Kelvingrove Park in the West End, and was initially slow to get moving, with one attendee later noting that “the police were trying to keep it back”. There was a heavy police presence throughout the march. At first, I only noticed Police Liaison Team (PLT) officers in blue bibs distributed through the crowd but as the march picked up, I was able to notice several other officers, including those on motorbikes, on horseback, and in police cars ahead of the front of the march. There were also multiple riot vans parked on multiple side streets running parallel to the route. Personally, I thought it seemed like a somewhat heavy-handed approach for a peaceful march for the most part led by children and young people – and runs contrary to the approach they said they’d take.
Despite FFF’s younger demographic there was still a wide range of attendees, from babies all the way up to pensioners. There was a gaggle of primary school aged children walking beside me at one point who were starting their own chants such as, “save our planet, we’ve only got one” and the very appropriate “why don’t you care?” Other chants picked up during the day included the oft-used “What do we want? Climate justice. When do we want it? Now.” and my personal favourite, sung to the tune of Hey Baby (Uhh, Ahh) by DJ Otzi, “Hey Boris, I want to know oh oh oh, why you’re such a pr*ck?”
Although there was a relatively cheerful feel in the air, with protesters whooping and clapping when onlookers leaned out of their doors and windows to cheer the march on and one man peddling a boombox rickshaw through the crowd, the severity of the climate crisis was clearly ever present on protesters’ minds. One attendee expressed that she felt it necessary to be there that day because it was “so consequential”, noting that she wanted to be able to know that she had made an effort to engage in climate action. One man, decked out in flags from all over the world, marched ahead of one of the police motorbike fleets carrying a sign that read ‘COP26 ACT NOW’ on one side and ‘END CLIMATE CRIME’ on the other.
When the march reached George Square in the city centre, the crowd reportedly stretched back for about a mile, as far as Charing Cross Station. Attendees crowded into George Square joining other supporters who had already gathered there, including youth street band SambaYaBamba who were performing for the crowds. There was the odd climate change denier – a group of people holding a banner bearing the words ‘Climate alarmism is fake science’ stood waiting in the square. However, a man lay on the ground before them, holding up a sign that read ‘Super typhoon Haiyan on its eighth, we cannot forget. Climate Justice’.
With crowds gathering into the square, Greta Thunberg took to the stage and spoke about the climate summit COP26, highlighting the uselessness and hypocrisy of the leaders attending. "It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure. It should be obvious that we cannot solve a crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place", she said.
"The people in power can continue to live in their bubble filled with their fantasies, like eternal growth on a finite planet and technological solutions that will suddenly appear seemingly out of nowhere and will erase all of these crises just like that.
"All this while the world is literally burning, on fire, and while the people living on the front lines are still bearing the brunt of the climate crisis."