Greta Thunberg, the most recent recipient of Time’s Person of the Year, arrived in Bristol city centre today to speak and participate in the youth climate march, organised by the group Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate.
Greeted with chants of “Greta, Greta” upon getting onstage, the 17-year-old was given a rockstar’s welcome by the predominately teenage crowd, with 30,000 people braving the rain and wind to see her speak. In her speech, she accused politicians and the media of ignoring the climate emergency and “sweeping their mess under the rug”. “We are the change, and change is coming whether you like it or not,” the Swedish environmentalist said. “Activism works so I’m telling you to act…we are being betrayed by those in power.” She added: “Our leaders behave like children so it falls to us to be the adults in the room. They are failing us but we will not back down.”
Ms Thunberg spoke for around 10 minutes to the crowd before leading the climate strike march across the city centre, with more than 20 road closures in operation while the event took place. The turnout was considerably higher than the 15,000 the police had expected to attend. Although Avon and Somerset Police warned in the days leading up to the march of the “potential for trips, slips, falls and crushing”, the day went relatively smoothly, with the BYS4C recruiting more than 80 stewards and having a “safe zone” for young children and families, particularly notable considering Greta’s appearance was only arranged less than two weeks in advance.
The organisers of the march, Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate, were recently successful in their campaign to stop the expansion of Bristol airport, which was voted down last month. They also shared their aims for a better and more sustainable future, outlining that they want the government to effectively communicate the severity of the climate crisis and empower young people to have a voice in policymaking, which includes the lowering of the voting age to 16.
This article was contributed by Jack Crockford, a student at the University of Bristol who was present at the event.