‘We want to radicalise students’: Youth Strike 4 Climate returns to Portsmouth

SCORES of students and school pupil filled Guildhall Square to demand action on climate change, as part of the global Youth Strike 4 Climate.

Saturday, 13th April 2019, 5:31 pm
Updated Saturday, 13th April 2019, 5:37 pm
Jessica Winslade. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

The protest is part of the global youth environmental movement started by Greta Thurnberg, a Swedish schoolgirl who went on strike from school to highlight the environmental crisis. 

Last month more than 100 school pupils followed her example by skipping school to demonstrate in the city centre.

Nicholas Day, a co-ordinator for the group that helped organise the protests, Extinction Rebellion Portsmouth, said: ‘In Portsmouth, we want to target the city’s 23,000 students – we want to radicalise them.

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Jessica Winslade. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

‘We want them to vote on this issue, and we want to work with the council.

‘We need leaders to step up and spell out the reality of the situation and how desperate it is.’ 

Last month Portsmouth City Council made the ‘historic act’ of voting to declare a ‘climate emergency’ with the pledge to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030. 

Tom Vick, a history student at the University of Chichester, turned up with a placard demanding ‘system change, not climate change.’

He said: ‘You see headlines saying that if you live in Portsmouth for a year, its the same as starting smoking – it’s alarming.

‘There needs to be more of a focus around localised areas – it’s not as if it’s only a London issue. 

‘More people need to show their support in other areas, like Portsmouth.’

The protests come after Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson revealed he had written to MP Michael Gove, the secretary of environment, food and rural affairs, to ask for financial support to improve air quality in Portsmouth. 

Extinction Rebellion and other environmental groups are planning for a campaign of mass disobedience in London next week, with the Portsmouth group focusing on engaging the public. 

However the group has not ruled out using direct action.

Nicholas said: ‘Portsmouth has got only two kind of arteries -road arteries - coming in to the city, and they would be incredibly easy to block. 

‘We wouldn’t want to go down that route, as the challenge is mobilising the public.

‘But if the council starts to drag their feet, we will resort to direct action.’