Four activists hold a banner reading "Youth Climate Swarm"

Youth Climate Swarm Return For More Daring Disruption

Returning for a second round of road blocking, Youth Climate Swarm yesterday demonstrated that they are growing in strength and in nerve. 

The group first took action in Bristol in January when around 40 activists used swarming, blocking roads for intervals of seven minutes, on a number of minor roads around the city centre. 

Yesterday (Saturday, February 12) a slightly larger group, joined by a 16-piece samba band, disrupted traffic on busy roads including Old Market Roundabout and Rupert Street between 12pm and 2pm. Queues built up at each location before the activists cleared the roads and there was some aggression from drivers, including one who drove through the swarm, nearly injuring an activist. 

Despite this, the protesters’ confidence remained unshaken throughout the action. 

A crowd of protesters in the foreground and behind them a queue of cars.
Traffic built up on Old Market as protesters held the road with banners and a samba band. Image: James Ward.

One youth activist, 19, who wished to remain anonymous, said that it was a great feeling to be standing in front of cars on a roadblock and speaking his mind. ‘It’s not scary at all,’ he said cheerfully.

He said that he was protesting because he feels the government is misguided on climate science and isn’t doing enough about the climate crisis. He vowed to continue protesting until the government introduces legislative changes.

‘It’s absolutely necessary to do more direct action, that’s non-violent, to solve this climate crisis that we’re in,’ he said, adding ‘one little protest isn’t going to change the world but if constant pressure is applied then you will start to see differences.’

Youth Climate Swarm (YCS) is a nationwide campaign that began in London in December. They are demanding that the government end all fossil fuel extraction as a priority, insulate all of Britain’s homes and provide free transport for all. 

On a day with five other protests in the city centre, YCS’s was the only one to cause employ disruptive tactics. The group likes to position itself as a slightly more radical option than other climate campaign groups, whilst still remaining accessible. Despite the disruption to roads, YCS actions are designed to be non-arrestable.

Youth Climate Strike activist Torin Menzies, 17, said: ‘We cannot continue to accept the role that the destructive and ecocidal oil industry plays in our society. 

‘As young people, the future of our generation and our planet is on the line, yet politicians are failing to act. That’s why we are taking action in Bristol as part of mobilisation efforts across the country to build an unstoppable youth climate movement.’

40 people block the road.
The roadblock on Rupert Street, where one activist was nearly injured by a dangerous driver. Image: James Ward.

Yesterday’s action comes just over a week after chancellor Rishi Sunak announced his desire to encourage more investment in fossil fuel extraction and his intention to approve new oil and gas fields in the North Sea this year. The move has been condemned by environmental campaigners.

This week has also seen news that industry experts are calling for radical improvements to the government’s policies on home insulation, saying that if the UK is to have any chance of meeting its carbon targets, not to mention providing a decent standard of living for millions in cold homes, it must invest in home insulation. 

Police were on scene throughout the day but didn’t intervene in the action other than to divert some traffic away.

YCS’s actions in Bristol are coordinated by Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate.

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