School pupils at Extinction Rebellion protest in Portsmouth: ‘We are willing to be arrested’ 

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More than 100 protesters demanded action on climate change in Portsmouth today– with school children saying they were ‘willing to be arrested’ to raise awareness. 

‘The older generation have let us down,’ 15 year-old Bella Hemsley, a pupil at Priory school, said. 

School pupils skipped school in order to take part in the climate change emergency protest, organised by Extinction Rebellion Portsmouth.

School pupils skipped school in order to take part in the climate change emergency protest, organised by Extinction Rebellion Portsmouth.

She joined dozens of other school pupils in the protest, as part of the the Youth 4 Climate Strike movement created by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, aged 16. 

Extinction Rebellion Portsmouth, part of the international climate change activism group, organised the event. 

It is the fourth protest at the Guildhall from the group since its creation earlier this year, with the movement in Portsmouth growing ‘month on month,’ according to volunteer Sophie Cardinal, 26, from Gosport. 

She said: ‘Portsmouth City Council has declared a climate emergency, and it’s all very well and good declaring an emergency, but how are we going to act on this?’

Jasmine Chapman

Jasmine Chapman

‘We want to see action on climate change.

‘This is an issue that is worth taking time to take off school for.’

Pupils from Priory School were escorted to the protest by a teacher, after they said it was ‘unacceptable’ they had been reprimanded for their unauthorised absences attending the last climate strike protest, according to Bella. 

She said: ‘The headteacher thought that only a few who showed a real interest in the issue shouldn’t be punished, so we were escorted here today.’

Bella said she and many of her fellow pupils were ‘completely willing’ to be arrested, after more than 1,000 Extinction Rebellion activists were taken into custody by police during demonstration in London last month. 

Among them was Joy van der Graaf, 21, an environmental studies student at the University of Portsmouth, who helped organised yesterday’s protest. 

She said: ‘It was frightening at first. Four police officers dragged me off. It felt like I was doing something for the cause that I care about.’

She added the group in Portsmouth hoped to keep things ‘civil,’ with the council co-operating with their demands.

Extinction Rebellion is calling on governments to declare a climate and ecological emergency, reduce greenhouse emission to net zero by 2025, and create a Citizens’ Assembly on ecological justice.