'There Is No Planet B': Huge Climate Strike As Students Defy Calls To Stay In School
The roars will be heard all the way to Canberra. They shut down the city, took over its public square, and left a special phone message for Bill Shorten.
Thousands upon thousands of children flooded Sydney's Town Hall plaza for the city's School Strike 4 Climate, as the student-organised event boomed an overwhelming call to politicians. It was a clear call for fast, effective political action on the environment.
On the steps of the historic Town Hall building, a long list of young speakers, hailing from city-area schools to institutions in country NSW made their case.
Passionate speeches were made, chants were roared, and songs were sung. It was just one of more than 50 events across Australia, with countless thousands more attending.
In the crowd below, a sea of thousands of beaming faces sang John Lennon's 'Imagine' as the 1971 Beatles' song was re-imagined as an unlikely anthem for climate action:
You may say I'm a dreamer But I'm not the only one I hope some day you'll join us And the world will be as one
Among the attendees -- high school students in blazers and Year 12 commemorative jumpers, primary school kids at their first protests looking wide-eyed around at the huge crowds, tiny children holding the hands of their parents or sitting on dad's shoulders.
First Nations speakers were among those who got the loudest receptions during speeches, as politicians like federal MP Kerryn Phelps and Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore watched on approvingly from the back of the stage.
Other Sydney councillors took their place in the thick of the crowd, chanting along.
And the signs!
Thousands upon thousands dotted the crowd, from huge banners the size of bed sheets to tiny hand-written messages scribbled on paper or flimsy cardboard -- but it was the message, not the medium, that will leave the lasting impression.
Some of our favourites:
"Listen to these bloody kids, will you?"
"I remember when this was urgent in the 90s."
"I was hoping for a cooler death."
"Why teach science if you don't believe the science?"
Many politicians rubbished the protest in the lead up, saying kids should be in class instead of standing in the city, and claiming many would only turn up for a day off school.
And sure, there were undeniably a number of kids who didn't seem to be terribly interested in the speeches happening before them, wandering around with fast food in hand and joking with their mates, their hands full of hamburgers instead of signs.
Then there was the naming and shaming of politicians on all sides.
Many signs decried Prime Minister Scott Morrison, but others took a shot at Labor. Indeed, the speakers on stage ended the official events with a call to opposition leader Bill Shorten's office, which was broadcast on the loudspeaker.
His office didn't pick up, perhaps unsurprisingly.
But they left a message -- thousands of people yelling together, "BE OUR CLIMATE LEADER". The speakers read out Shorten's phone number, asking attendees to program it into their phones, and "flood" his office with calls for action.
Elsewhere, huge hyper-realistic effigies of Barnaby Joyce, former PM Malcolm Turnbull, and Scott Morrison -- complete with hard hat, holding a big lump of coal -- came out to mock the Coalition members.
As the Town Hall events wrapped up, the attendees turned heel and marched to nearby Hyde Park. Police lined the route to block traffic, and thousands of curious office workers and CBD pedestrians stood applauding on the footpaths.
Many students told 10 daily that, while they were angry, they were hopeful.
They truly believe their actions today will have some effect. Not an immediate effect, but that it will start the ball rolling, that the coming federal election may deliver a parliament more prepared to work quickly on climate action.
"You're burning our future," one sign read.
"There is no planet B," said another.
But it was another, hand-painted on a small slip of cardboard, that had perhaps the most striking message of the day:
"The dinosaurs didn't have a choice. We do."
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