On Friday 24th May, Exeter YouthStrike marched for the third time, calling for the government to take action on climate change. Starting outside Devon County Hall, protesters gave speeches and invited people to come up and speak. At just after 11.30, the group marched along the pavement to Bedford Square in Exeter town centre, where there were further open mic opportunities. At 1.45, they moved on to Bury Meadow Park for final speeches and the end of the rally.
A group of student strikers also attended a meeting with local council members earlier in the day. They are said to be attending a follow up meeting in which they can lay out more practical plans for reducing Exeter and Devon’s environmental impacts.
This strike comes just days after Exeter University declared a climate emergency and the government passed a ban on many single use plastic items to take effect in April 2020.
A group of student strikers attended a meeting with local council members
During the march, a section of the protest moved out onto the road, encouraged by an Extinction Rebellion protester. To the annoyance of the police present, the protester shouted, “it’s a protest, come out and block the road!” However, he only gained a few followers and protesters quickly moved back onto the pavement.
The Extinction Rebellion activist said: “If we just conform, and stay on the pavement, and be quiet, and be nice, and wait at the traffic lights, then you will just be marginalised. And [government action on climate change] will be kicked down the road for another 30 years!”
Extinction Rebellion organiser, Caspar Hughes, who has attended rallies in Exeter and London and was arrested when protesters held Waterloo Bridge, was pleased with the turn out at the strike. Regarding student strikers meeting with the council, Hughes said: “the only reason that is happening is because of the tandem workings of Extinction Rebellion and the Youth Strikes coming out and repeatedly getting themselves in protest and crucially non-violent direct action.”
There have been a number of rallies in Exeter in recent months, both by Extinction Rebellion and the YouthStrike movement.
“my school, they made us all look like we were stupid for going to the strikes, but what we are doing is standing up for our future.”
Local school children who spoke at the rally said: “[The strikes] are extremely important to our future … my school, they made us all look like we were stupid for going to the strikes, but what we are doing is standing up for our future.” Students had been denied exit from their school but managed to leave to join the strike, citing how important it is to them.
In a twist seen as ironic by some attendees, the protesters also received a lot of support from people driving past. Many honked their horns, receiving cheers in response. The protesters then called for drivers sitting in traffic to “turn off [their] engines!”
It is the third YouthStrike rally to walk the streets of Exeter, with its large turnout suggesting it is unlikely to be the last.