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Fridays for Future Begins Reboot with 1,300 Local Events World-Wide

With thousands of Montrealers taking to the streets last Friday for one of 1,300 youth-led protests around the world, there’s hope that the Fridays for Future strike is beginning to re-emerge from the lockdowns imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many of the participants in Montreal’s Global Protest for Climate Justice March “were spurred to turn out because the recent federal election left them doubtful Canada’s political leaders are taking the issue seriously,” writes The Montreal Gazette.

Jenna Deer-Frainetti, who, at age 15, was one of the 500,000-plus people who walked the streets with #FridaysforFuture founder Greta Thunberg at a “monster” climate rally in the city in 2019, said she returned for this protest because she doesn’t want “to live on a planet that is burning.” 

“Things are not progressing in the direction we wanted,” she said. “There are more people in the younger generation that are getting involved, but I don’t think our government is doing enough. Especially with the recent election, I don’t think anything is getting done.”

The Friday event in Montreal was co-organized the Racial Justice Collective, Solidarity Across Borders, Coalition étudiante pour un virage environnemental et social, and Pour le futur Mtl. “Organizers emphasized the idea that marginalized groups and developing nations are the ones that suffer the most from the effects of climate change,” writes the Gazette. 

Leading in to the coordinated series of 1,300 global protests, Inside Climate News wondered last week if the day would ultimately mark a long-needed resurgence in public climate protest. 

If so, it would mark Fridays for Future’s return to its former trajectory as a “social juggernaut,” one that began with Greta Thunberg’s lonely school strike and vigil outside the Swedish parliament in 2018, and a year later saw at least eight million people around the world hitting the streets to demand climate action during two global rallies in the spring and fall.

“The size of protests we had in 2019 is actually unprecedented,” said Sebastian Haunss, a political scientist at the Institute for Protest and Movement Research. “Before Fridays for Future, I’m not aware that there were in any way comparable synchronized and coordinated international protests, as we saw during the 2019 global mobilization wave. It’s really something that is new to this last wave of protest.” 

But pandemic constraints put a damper on climate activism, and Haunss said internet activism has proven no replacement for in-person collective protest. The decline in activism during the pandemic “made clear how important congregation still is for social movement,” he said.

Even people utterly opposed to hearing about climate change “can’t ignore it when thousands of people are marching in the streets,” University of Strasbourg researcher Mélanie Meunier told Inside Climate. “It has increased awareness at a very basic level.”