Demonstration Climate strikers assemble in Newcastle. Photo: Newcastle Counterfire

The message from Newcastle is clear

Newcastle City centre was once again hit with a huge wave of anger, resistance and youthful vibrancy as 2000 people marched down Northumberland Street and assembled at the Monument as part of a global day of action to prevent climate chaos. The message once again was both radical and unifying: we want system change not climate change.

Some of the build-up in Newcastle has has taken place throughout the summer, following a call from the UK Student Climate Network for action from the trade union movement, and the TUC’s recent declaration of support for climate strikes. Various unions in the North East have networked together to form Trade Unions NE Supporting Climate Strikes. The result was a huge and diverse demonstration where student strikers marched alongside Unison, NEU and several other unions, as well as North East People’s Assembly, Extinction Rebellion, Labour and Greens. This shows a big step towards mobilising the broad social forces needed to shift the system’s priorities away from an obsession with profit towards the needs of the planet and everyone on it.

The rally almost matched the size of the recent Defend Democracy protest in response to Boris Johnson’s prorogue of Parliament, and this issue partly drove the energy of today’s youth strike as protesters chanted “This is what democracy looks like!”. Student strikers aimed their anger squarely at the Tory government with its total disregard for democracy, the climate and people’s living standards. To demonstrate the emergency facing us, students called in everyone at the rally to set off their phone alarms at 1 o’ clock. 

Several speakers made the link between climate justice and social justice. A speaker from Unison stressed the need for workplaces to tackle climate change in workplaces up and down the country while defending jobs, wages and conditions, also declaring that NHS North East has become the first healthcare region in the country to declare a climate emergency. She finished by insisting “There are no jobs on a dead planet”. To enthusiastic cheers, another speaker from Extinction Rebellion demanded the ending of the suspension of Parliament. 

Tony Dowling, representing teachers in the National Education Union (NEU), reiterated their support for students. The NEU passed a motion earlier this year to oppose any reprisals by schools against students taking strike action, and to support any defence campaigns against detentions and exclusions. He also called on workplaces and unions to work together to devise a just transition to a green economy, and for the education system to educate the public on climate change, equipping the next generation with the skills and knowledge needed to protect the planet. 

Today’s demonstration showed how various grievences are now converging. The anger over the neglect of the climate is feeding into anger at the neglect of the most vulnerable people in society, and a complete lack of trust in this rotten and reactionary Tory government. 

The call to join the demonstration outside the Tory Party conference met with a positive response. Climate strikers continue to be a massive source of inspiration to everyone who wants to see the end of Boris Johnson’s government, and a new kind of economy which protects people and the planet.