Tens of thousands of school and university students marched through Vienna on March 15 as part of international school strike Fridays for Future, protesting government inaction on climate change.
According to the police, the crowd numbered over 10,500, the organizers reported 25,000. Initiated by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg (16), the weekly protests have been growing steadily since August 2018, culminating in Friday’s mass demonstrations carefully coordinated between students across 123 countries through Social Media. The movement’s increasing success has earned Thunberg a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Early Friday morning, on Heldenplatz (Heroes’ Square), “heroes” dressed in Fridays for Future lab coats spoke of their hopes to turn around climate change. Their demand is simple: that governments stick to the promises made at the Paris Climate Summit, reported Johannes Stangl, one of the organizers, and to fix the world they have broken. “We’re expecting 5,000 protesters today,” he said confidently. An hour later, there were twice that many, as some 10,000 students made their way from five meetings points across the city to Heldenplatz, flooding the square with colorful banners and chanting: “We are here! We are loud! Because you steal our future!”
While some adults dismiss the demonstrations as mere exaggerated teen rebellion, Minister of Environment Elisabeth Köstinger (ÖVP) agreed to meet with the local organizers on Monday (Mar 18). “The consequences of climate change will severely affect this generation, therefore their fight for action is essential. We are here to listen.” While Viennese schools do not formally accept strike-related absences as justified, there was little evidence the rule was being enforced.