35,000 attend Youth for Climate march in Brussels


More than 10 times the number of the first march two weeks ago, the Antwerp-based Youth for Climate is planning to take to the streets in Brussels every Thursday until the May elections

Climate Belgium march this Sunday

A record number 35,000 pupils from Belgian schools marched for the climate today in Brussels, the third outing for the activist group founded by two Antwerp secondary school students. “There’s nothing more important to us than this issue,” one of the marchers told Bruzz. “This is the only thing we talk about.”

The first Youth for Climate march was on 10 January and attracted 3,000 pupils. The second, last week, saw 12,000 show up. And today, police confirmed that there were 35,000 people, marching from Central Station to Luxemburgplein in the EU district.

“I think that eventually, we’ll have held the largest climate march ever, and then everyone will see what kind of youth we have in Belgium,” Anuna De Wever, co-founder of Youth for Climate, told Bruzz. Strong words considering that last month more than 65,000 people attended the Claim the Climate march in Brussels.

De Wever said that she’s always been “careful” about what she says regarding her expectations, but “the first time everyone said ‘this is just a bit of fun’, and the second time they said I really shouldn’t expect more than that”.

Thunberg: ‘Heroes!’

Part of the reason for the increase in numbers appears to be due to French-language pupils joining their Dutch-speaking comrades. All of the pupils are skipping school to march for the climate, inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.

Thunberg has made international headlines and was invited to speak at the COP24 last month following her ground-breaking School Strike for the Climate action. The 16-year-old has been following the Brussels students’ actions and today tweeted: “A Belgian journalist just told me 35,000 students are school striking in Brussels today.! Heroes!”

While some of the local pupils have permission from their schools to attend the marches, others do not and risk sanctions. Some schools are willing to see pupils disappear for one or two Thursdays but are not prepared for the threat being carried out: To gather in the streets of Brussels every Thursday until the May elections.

What’s a little disobedience compared to what’s at stake?

- Act for Climate Justice

“If these children have been absent for two full days, a third day can lead to action being undertaken,” said Kris Van den Bossche, head of Flanders’ Vrij CLB school network.

In the meantime, the second Rise for Climate Belgium march is being planned for this Sunday. It starts at 14.00 at North Station. The first such march saw more than 65,000 people taking to the streets of Brussels.

On the same day, Act for Climate Justice is planning a protest outside of Wetstraat 16, the offices of the federal cabinet and prime minister. The group plans to write on the street in chalk the policy changes that need to happen.

The address is in the no-go zone for protests, and clashes with the police are expected. “Wetstraat might be a neutral zone,” writes the group on its website, “but there are no neutral zones when it comes to the climate. What’s a little disobedience compared to what’s at stake?”

Finally, the group Students for Climate, with chapters across Belgium’s higher education institutions, is planning its own climate march on 14 February.

Photo: 35,000 and counting: Youth for Climate promises to march every Thursday until the May elections
©Nicolas Maeterlinck/BELGA