At least 100,000 people are gathered in Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow in the torrential rain. They’re marching from here eastward to Glasgow Green for the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice.
Jen Morris from the Young Christian Climate Network has helped push a boat on wheels all the way from Cornwall. The vessel is called the Pilgrim” and has a sail – but it’s hull is a wicker coffin. “It signifies that while we’re all in the same storm, we’re not all in the same boat.”
Consuela Rosa, an artist, and Ellen Naughton, a Sligo-born occupational therapist, have two beautifully painted signs. Naughton spent the week making banners with the patients she works with. “We’re hoping that protests like this will hold politicians to account,” says Naughton. “We never thought to waterproof proof the signs though.”
Rosa says “they’re quite soggy”, feeling the paper. Like the Fridays for Future protest the day before, indigenous activists and those from the frontline of the climate crisis lead the march. A huge group of people is gathered holding hands in a big ring around some of them as they address the crowd before the marches even start. Nearby, a phalanx of Young Communists with red flags, red smoke flares, red face masks and black clothing come marching through with a big banner.
They have several chants that run from the innocuous, “When the reds go marching in!” to the more politically suspect, “Ho-ho, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara and Stal-in!” One of the communists says “guys remember to turn face ID off on your phone”. Later I learn the police kettled them away from the main protest for several hours. Earlier a number of scientists affiliated with Extinction Rebellion were arrested after chaining themselves together across George V Bridge.
Adults and teenagers
On the march here things generally have a lighter atmosphere. People dance to the kilted brass and drum players of Samba la Bamba. Wellwishers hang out of windows along the route holding signs and cheering. There are rain-soaked dogs and children in pushchairs and older people with walking sticks. The Woodcraft Folk, which is an all-ages group that focuses on education for social change, has created a big caterpillar from recycled tarpaulin. It’s being manoeuvred by a procession of adults and teenagers.
“We were going to have butterflies coming out of a caterpillar with a chrysalis on top of it,” says a man called Neil. They didn’t quite manage to do that. “We have the chrysalis but no butterflies to come out of it.” Why a caterpillar? “It’s radical change, isn’t it?”
Eight-year-old Harris Cunningham, here with his younger siblings and ecologically concerned parents (they have an organic farm), has a pretty good understand of the situation. “We’re here to tell the presidents that we can’t find new planets so we want to save this one. Because if they don’t, it’s not fair to young people.”
John Kingston is holding a stick on which is stapled old bags, plastic ties and broken plugs. He works in a social enterprise called Glasgow Wood Recycling. He wanted to make a sign but he couldn’t think of anything to say. If he said what he felt, he says, “I wouldn’t be able to fit it all in. I was cleaning up at work and thought I could just use that rubbish. So it’s literal rubbish, it’s also the rubbish of the situation and the mental, internal rubbish you keep in your head because you can’t do anything.”
Paul Richards, an accountant, holds a sign that says, “So bad even accountants are here”. Climate change affects everyone not just your typical protesters, he says. What are his usual politics? “I heard a term the other day, ‘champagne socialist’, and thought that sounded like fun. Things aren’t black and white. This isn’t a left/right thing.” He’s in a minority here thinking that the issue is not a left/right thing. Many believe that life on the planet cannot be saved without completely restructuring society.
Sarah Gorton and Maya Gorton, both with Extinction Rebellion, are carrying large wooden eyes made by their artist friend Loo Ogden. The pupils on each can be moved with a lever at the back (like Action Man). “It’s to say to the politicians, ‘the world is watching you”, explains Sarah. “Our leader