The second large scale UK youth strike took place on March 15th, and in London thousands of young people skipped school and headed to Westminster to stand in solidarity with a million youths in more than 100 countries across the world.
Starting in Parliament Square, where authorities prevented them from setting up a PA system, they began an impromptu march up Whitehall and along The Mall to Buckingham Palace, where they effectively disrupted the planned Changing of the Guard. From there on, splinter marches took place, with many returning to Parliament Square along Victoria Street, and another large group returning via Whitehall and Downing Street.
At the Dept for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy some youngsters tried to deliver a letter to the Minister, Claire Perry, but were refused admission by security who then locked the doors. The letter requested that the Minister honour an original agreement to meet Extinction Rebellion for talks, which she later cancelled, citing a ‘heavily committed’ schedule.
A large crowd of young people took over Westminster Bridge and listened to speeches there, as well as holding a minute’s silence for all the victims of climate change. Extinction Rebellion organised an ‘after-party’ there and so for a while a crowd of hundreds danced there, while others listened to speeches and blocked roads around Parliament. Eventually police arrived in numbers and began to clear people back towards Parliament Square where they were contained, but a few youngsters continued to sit in the road in an act of civil disobedience, and eventually four were arrested for ‘obstruction of the highway’. There were two other arrests during the day, one for obstruction at Trafalgar Square, and another for jumping over the fence at Westminster, possibly a trespass offence under SOCPA legislation. All were later released without charge ‘pending investigation’.
A further march of more than a hundred students headed towards Waterloo Bridge, accompanied by several police units, and they were detained briefly in a kettle at the north side of the bridge, and then escorted across the bridge by large numbers of police. Some dispersed and others headed back to Parliament, but numbers were dwindling by 5pm or so.
Despite the huge numbers taking part, and the deployment of public order police units and at least 8 horses, the protest was completely peaceful throughout.
Students took part in other cities around the UK, and the next strike is called for Friday 12th April. This will be followed on the Monday by the International Extinction Rebellion Week, which many young people are expected to attend.