Mike Bushnell shares his experience of supporting the Global Climate Strike on Friday.
What an amazing day Friday was – from waking up to news stories of Climate Strike actions on the other side of the world to being able to take part myself with a local strike in my hometown. I wore my CCA t-shirt, but it wasn’t about us, or XR or the trade unions who help to organise the event. This day was about the young people, we were just the support act.
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting. I turned up a bit early because I wanted to see if I could meet some people from Extinction Rebellion Reading – but initially there were only a dozen or so people there. The event posted on Facebook said to congregate by the Reading Civic offices – just opposite that temple of consumerism, the Oracle shopping centre.
As it got closer to the official start time though more and more people arrived, many of them from local schools, often still in uniform. A few even told me that their headteacher had given them permission to leave school – so long as they didn’t do it every week! Eventually the crowd numbered in the hundreds. I didn’t expect the impromptu roadblock – but in the end I think that there were too many of us to fit into the square outside the council offices anyway.
There were some beautiful moments – from the march of the XR Red Brigade to the cheers that went up every time a new group of young people turned up to join the ever-increasing crowds. At one point a fire engine needed to get through, and the crowds parted, Red Sea like, flowing quickly to either side of the road, and equally quickly flowing back once the engine had passed.
A common theme of the day was that almost all the speeches, songs and chants were led by the young people. They spoke eloquently and with a knowledge and passion that could easily put us older people to shame. I certainly wouldn’t have had the courage to do what they were doing.
We then marched up into the centre of Reading, through the pedestrianised Broad Street and up through Market Place and re-grouped outside the town hall, for more chanting, songs and speeches, overlooked by Queen Victoria. The shoppers in Broad Street seemed a bit surprised, but generally supportive.
I think that many of us there, including the organisers, had underestimated just how many people would turn up – and I think that it also took the police by surprise, as they didn’t turn up for quite a while. Overall the atmosphere was friendly and inclusive, and made me feel as though maybe we are reaching a turning point in the global climate change movement. I know that the big city protests get most of the attention, but on Friday we were everywhere, across the country and the world. Hopefully we are becoming impossible to ignore.