A massive student-led protest in Brussels kicked off in an animated atmosphere on Friday, as thousands of people braved the rain to march along youth and student strikers for more ambitious climate action.
People from all across the country poured into downtown Brussels from midday, with the official count being around 3,400, according to the police.
The strike on Friday saw Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg return to Belgium nearly a year after she last marched through the EU capital alongside some tens of thousands of youth from across Belgium.
Demonstrators young and old hopped into trains from corners around Belgium and Europe, brandishing signs and chanting slogans in English, Dutch and French ahead of the departure.
As the marchers prepared to set off, a number of strikers spoke to The Brussels Times, sharing their views on the event and the climate, with many admitting to being disappointed over what they see as insufficient political action to rein in the warming climate.
Sophie Vandeveugle, 21 – Namur
“I’m here as a symbolic measure, because I don’t think politicians are listening,” she said, adding that she had come to protest alone.
“Protests help, but I am quite pessimistic about the chance that they may change anything in the mind of politicians who are only thinking about their careers — but I cannot stay at home doing nothing,” she added.
The strike on Friday marked the tenth time she rode the train into Brussels to attend a climate protest.
Anna, 22 – Vienna, Austria
“I’m here because of the EU Green Deal, it’s not enough, and if this will be the last we will hear about it, then it’s very sad,” Anna said, adding that she had just arrived in Brussels onboard a night train from Vienna to attend the strike with around a dozen others.
“We need decisive and radical action now, not in 50 years, it is too late for a smooth transition,” she added.
Chris, 58 and Wim, 55 – Haacht
“We are hoping to wake up the politicians. They are always waiting until the people rise up, but politicians have to stop waiting, stop thinking small and be brave enough to act.”
Ingrid Maldoy and Arnold Peeters – Antwerp
“We have come several times and we keep coming, always to protest inaction and to demand climate justice,” Ingrid said, referring to her partner. “We both have children and grandchildren that we are thinking of.”
Ahead of the march, they fashioned a protest sign out of an umbrella to denounce news that several hectares of trees would be razed for the expansion of a logistics company in Limburg.
As the square filled up with protesters, the march set off in the direction of the EU Quarter towards their final destination at Parc du Cinquantenaire, where Thunberg is expected to address the crowd.
The Brussels Times