Thousands of young people took to the streets of Brussels for the seventh successive Thursday to press for strong measures against global warming. What was different this time was the arrival of Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg, an emotional moment for the marchers. Media and demonstrators had gathered at the kickoff point, the Gare du Nord station, on Thursday afternoon, hoping for one thing: to see Thunberg. The famous 16-year-old activist, who launched the school strikes for the climate in her country last year, arrived just as the cortege prepared to move off at 1 p.m., sending the crowd into a frenzy.
Youths shouted. Journalists rushed forward. “I feel like crying,” said one young demonstrator. Surrounded by cameras, sound recorders and journalists, the teenager had no idea where to put her head. The media mass prevented the procession from moving.
Frénésie médiatique autour de Greta Thunberg, venue soutenir #youthforclimate à Bruxelles. Certains espèrent que sa présence va aider à faire perdurer la mobilisation des jeunes Belges pic.twitter.com/xzExNYjSid
After vigorously pushing back the press and forming a security cordon around the young woman and also Adélaïde Charlier, initiator of the movement in French-speaking Belgium, the Youth for Climate stewards and other youths were finally able to move forward.
Chanting their famous slogans, including “plus chauds que le climat” [‘Hotter than the climate’] and “one solution, the revolution”, the primary, secondary and higher-education students called for a more ambitious climate policy.
“It’s too late to go back to past errors, but not to limit their negative effects,” stressed Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a former vice-chairman of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The Belgian climate expert supports the demonstrators because, he said, “the young people and the IPCC are stronger together”.
“Greta, Adélaïde and Anuna [De Wever, one of the movement’s co-founders in Flanders] have succeeded in placing the adults before their responsibilities by asking them what they are doing with their future,” he noted. “That’s harder than avoiding IPCC reports.”
By 1.45 p.m., the march had only managed to reach Rogier.