People from almost every continent gathered for marches and rallies on Saturday to mark a World Day for Climate Justice, midway through the Glasgow climate change summit.

Activists in the Philippines, eight hours before the UK, had already completed their rally as protesters gathered in Scotland. Gatherings were also held in South Korea, Indonesia, the Netherlands and France. The Belgian branch of Extinction Rebellion occupied a street in Brussels.

The Scottish morning saw heavy rain, but the mood at the start was for joyous acceptance. “What do you expect from a demonstration in Glasgow? Asked Lucy Bell, who works for Vegan Kind, an online vegan supermarket based in Rutherglen. “There are so many people here from different backgrounds. It is easy to get discouraged by the negotiations taking place behind closed doors, but I am optimistic this morning despite the rain.

The Scientist Rebellion direct action group blocks the King George V Bridge. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod / The Guardian

In Glasgow city center, the direct action group Scientist Rebellion blocked the King George V Bridge, one of the main routes to the south side, around 11:30 a.m. More than 20 scientists, from students to a retired professor, all dressed in lab coats stood chained by the necks. The coalition of activist academics believes that non-violent civil disobedience is the only option left to draw attention to the end of the climate crisis.

“There have been 25 previous cops with no measurable impact on GHGs [greenhouse gas] shows, ”said Tim Hewlett, co-founder and one of those on the bridge. “In fact, about half of GHG emissions have been emitted since COP1 in 1995. We are therefore not here to speak the truth to power – they already know it – but to the poor, and to make their voice heard. tower. Hewlett added that the lab coats they wore offered at least some protection from the rain. The bridge was blocked until just before 4 p.m., and the group said 21 people were arrested.

Later on Saturday Gary Ritchie, Scottish Police Deputy Chief Constable, said: “Glasgow today staged a public protest the size and scale of which was beyond anything many of us … can ever remember . “

The day “passed largely without incident,” he said, but “a group of people were confined by officers after their driving deteriorated, pyrotechnics were used and they were killed. stopped the procession “. One person was arrested after the march. This is in addition to the 21 arrests already noted on the bridge.

The march started around noon and was led by a small group of First Nations people from the Mohawk territory of Kahnawake located in Quebec, Canada.

“It is so obvious that indigenous people have the answers – they have to start listening and thinking seven generations ahead, not just the immediate need,” said Karahkwintha, 23.

Ohontsakahte, 26, added: “Inside the cop room, unfortunately, corporate interests are at the forefront, so here today, indigenous people are leading the movement – and this so it should be inside the cop room as well. We are here to put Indigenous voices at the forefront of the climate crisis. “

Cop delegates were also scattered among the huge crowds. Tracy Sonny, 37, a Cop negotiator from Botswana focused on climate change adaptation and capacity building, was on the march to show solidarity and call for more unity. “We need to see more political will and a change in mindset… we are already feeling the impact of climate change; we have to react now, people are drowning.

Despite the rainy weather, the atmosphere was electric as each block was heard with live music and chants such as “system change, not climate change” and “world leaders at Cop26… your inaction us makes you sick ”.

Members of the climate action group Extinction Rebellion during a demonstration on rue de la Loi in Brussels.
Members of the climate action group Extinction Rebellion during a demonstration on rue de la Loi in Brussels. Photography: Julien Warnand / EPA

Grainne McGinn, 22, a wheelchair user from Glasgow, attended the Friday and Saturday youth protest with a sign reading ‘sustainability requires accessibility’. “Climate change is so important, but the voices of young people, especially the voices of young people with disabilities, are not being heard. We saw in the news how inaccessible Cop was to the delegates. This is the daily experience of all people with disabilities and it is so important that our voices are heard in the conversation about climate change. I am here to represent.

Vegan activists battled strong storms to make their point with four giant inflatable animals tied to ropes above their heads or tied to the ground. Each symbolized a different problem with the livestock industry: a cow for methane, a chicken for Covid and health, a fish for microplastics, and a pig for obesity. “The cow in the room is being ignored by this cop,” said Carl Le Blanc of Climate Healers. “Animal farming has been taken off the agenda and put on the menu. “

Carl Le Blance and an inflatable cow
“The cow in the room is ignored during this cop,” said Carl Le Blanc of Climate Healers, going to the Glasgow march during Cop26. Photography: Jon Watts

Roisin Greaney, 28, a postgraduate student from Dublin said: I am here today because, I would say a small group of people but in this case it is a very large group of people, wants to put sustained pressure on the people inside the blue zone.

“I’ve seen it in the past, I’ve seen small groups of people come together and scare governments, scare businesses and make them do things. So I think that kind of direct action works, and it’s amazing to see people from so many different organizations and sectors of society.

There was also despair; Chris Cornroy, 37, who works for Oxfam, said: “The world is probably going to end in our lifetime, so any difference you can make counts. But I don’t think anything will come of it if I’m honest. I don’t think anything will make a positive difference today.

By the afternoon the rain clouds had cleared and the skies had started to clear up as crowds of protesters poured out across the expanse of Glasgow Green, singing, chanting and playing music .

The mood was “festive, positive and impactful,” said Mary Martin of Coatbridge, who had paraded from Kelvingrove. “Walking,” she laughed, trembling against a strong gust of wind. As for the progress of the climate negotiations, “I’m holding my breath”. The lack of inclusiveness during the negotiations worries her, unlike her experience on this march where she notes the complicity between the different groups.

In London, thousands of protesters, including trade unionists, refugee rights groups, students and environmentalists, marched from the Bank of England to Trafalgar Square.

Protesters gather in Trafalgar Square after marching in the City of London.
Protesters gather in Trafalgar Square after marching in the City of London. Photograph: Niklas Halle’n / AFP / Getty Images

Protesters have repeatedly expressed exasperation that politicians are not tackling the climate emergency with the urgency it needs. “We don’t have time,” said Paula Somrisa, 41, of Oxford. “It’s great to make statements about ambitions and what’s going to happen in the future, but we really need action now.”

Dawn Fuller, 56, said: “We’re tired of hearing them talk – now we absolutely have to see some real action.” She said her two adult children were increasingly anxious about the escalating climate emergency. “We’ve seen so much greenwashing at Cop26… But it has to stop – it’s our children’s future that’s at stake.”

Many protesters called for urgent reform of the economic system and linked the climate crisis to global inequalities and structural racism.

Rebecca Hotchkin, 23, who studies medicine in London, said global health inequalities were exacerbated by the climate crisis. “Health justice and climate justice are linked. Governments must begin to tackle the underlying causes of the various crises we face. “

In Glasgow, organizers estimated more than 100,000 people were in attendance, but police were reluctant to number the crowd. In London, they said around 10,000 were marchers, although organizers estimated the figure at nearly 20,000. Around the world, there were more than 300 protests, including more than 100 alone. UK.

Nicola Sturgeon told reporters on Friday that she was confident the Glasgow Climate March would be “properly monitored”, adding that Iain Livingstone, the Scottish Police Chief of Police, had spoken to the Independent Advisory Group of the force after concerns were raised in an open letter.

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