Bristol

Greta Thunberg Bristol strike: Organisers insist event will be safe

Greta Thunberg Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Greta Thunberg will address thousands of people in Bristol

The teenage activists behind Greta Thunberg's visit to Bristol have said they are fully prepared for large crowds, despite police warnings.

Thousands are expected to attend the Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate (BYS4C) on College Green on Friday to hear the 17-year-old speak.

Police have warned of the "potential for trips, slips, falls and crushing".

But BYS4C said it would not be "patronised" and insisted adequate safety measures were in place.

The Swedish environmentalist contacted the group via text to say she was coming to the city.

In a letter to parents, Supt Andy Bennett from Avon and Somerset Police said the force was "unable to accurately predict how large this event will be".

It had "grown so large" that the usual safety measures may prove inadequate, he said.

'Don't patronise us'

Image copyright Izzy
Image caption Izzy, one of the organisers of Friday's event, at a previous climate strike

Izzy Smitheman, 17, is one of 30 teenage BYS4C members who have organised events in the past.

She said the group was aware Greta's presence "raises safety concerns" and had been working with authorities to make the event "as safe and accessible as possible".

More than 80 stewards have been drafted in to help, she said, and a sectioned-off "safe zone" would also be provided.

"Whilst we appreciate the concerns expressed by police, we have worked tirelessly to create a safe protest and fear that the urgency of climate action risks being undermined and patronised by such claims." she said.

She urged attendees to "be aware of their personal safety at all times" and to "look out for each other".

School day strike 'problematic'

William Brown is Bristol secretary for the National Education Union, whose branches have donated towards running costs.

He said BYS4C had "a good history" of organising big events, although those involved "appreciate this time it could be different".

"We are hoping most people will be attending in a positive spirit," he said.

Mr Brown, a teacher at Luckwell Primary, said his school was no longer making an organised trip but was supportive of parents who wanted to take their children.

Tom Inman, headteacher at Gordano School, has only authorised students from its "environmental and eco teams" to attend.

He said the school "agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment of such action and are fully supportive of students being active participators on such important issues".

But the notion of a "strike" on a school day was "inevitably problematic", he said.

Allowing a day's absence would go against the school's "duty of care" and "strong position on the attendance of students".

"There are no guarantees as to the level of supervision, by the police or other authorities, at the event," Mr Inman added.

'Shocked but excited'

Image copyright Lily Fitzgibbon
Image caption Lily Fitzgibbon, left, with fellow climate strike organisers Milly Sibson and Heulwen Flower

Member Lily Fitzgibbon was contacted directly by Ms Thunberg on 20 February, stunning her fellow activists.

"I had been given a little bit of advance warning she would be getting in touch," said Lily. "So I believed it was real, but most of my peers did not."

Izzy added: "We're all climate activists and to know that Greta Thunberg, who is the catalyst behind this movement, was coming to Bristol - we are all shocked but also excited."

"We are genuinely organising it ourselves, although that sounds crazy," said Lily.

"So often with climate change but also other issues it's a case of 'leave it to the adults'.

"To have a young person leading this whole movement - it's so inspiring."

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