Three people hold a large blue banner reading "No Airport Expansion"

Youth Climate Strike Targets Airport Expansion

The sun and blue skies were welcome additions to the first Youth Climate Strike of the year. 

The strike, organised by Bristol Youth Strike for Climate (BYS4C), was targeted at Bristol Airport expansion, which was recently given approval to expand from 10mn to 12mn passengers per year. 

Torin Menzies, 17, of BYS4C, said: ‘I think that the airport is such an important target because it’s the largest polluter in the south west, this is something that’s basically on our doorsteps, and we need to be radically and rapidly decarbonising yet the government are ignoring their own 2050 targets and allowing this to go ahead.’

Torin said that he is ‘disappointed’ to be having to take action and that he doesn’t want to have to be missing school, but he and other strikers believe that it is the most effective way of bringing attention to their cause. 

Speaking about the presence of a lot of youth activism in Bristol, Torin said ‘ we’ve got quite a good community of young people in Bristol who are ready to actually take action on the climate crisis and join us on the streets.’

Today’s (Friday, March 25) strike brought 150 people to College Green for a rally before marching them through the city centre to Castle Park and back again. 

Three young people hold placards for the camera.
Youth protesters leaving College Green as the march begins. Image: James Ward.

Speakers at the rally included Ben Moss of Bristol Airport Action Network, who have led resistance to the airport expansion since 2019, and Chloe Naldrett of clean air campaign Our Air, Our City. 

In an impassioned speech, Naldrett said the expansion was symptomatic of a ‘failure of leadership’ by government and highlighted the unfairness of the expansion decision, which went against 84% of local opinion as expressed in a public consultation. 

‘We said no. Our local government said no. So I don’t know why we have to be here today, because we said no,’ said Naldrett, who concluded by saying that expansion would only go ahead ‘over my cold, dead body.’

From 12.20pm the crowd then marched through the city centre led by a samba band and the Landing Crew, a performance group of activists dressed as flight crew. 

The turnout for the march was less than organisers had hoped for, and the duration of the march, coupled with the hot weather led to numbers dwindling by the time the column returned to College Green two hours later. 

A topless man dances along with the march.
Protesters enjoyed the sun as they marched. Image: James Ward.

In parallel to the Youth Strike, activists from Adblock Bristol took over nearby advertising boards with anti-airport posters. On one they did a “cover up” in which they hung a sheet of paper asking the public to comment on whether they wanted the airport to expand. Unsurprisingly the “Yes” column had zero signatures whilst the “No” column rapidly filled up. 

Bristol Airport was given permission to expand from 10mn passengers to 12mn passengers per year by government planning inspectors in February. The decision, which negates that of North Somerset Council, has been panned by campaigners, activists, politicians and residents. 

Bristol City Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council and the West of England Combined Authority all formally objected to the expansion proposal during the planning inquiry. 

At a rally in March, West of England metro mayor Dan Norris said that expansion would “drive a coach and horses” through the region’s net zero plans, and called for the inspectors’ decision to be overturned. 

Bristol Airport Action Network are pursuing an appeal in the High Court in the hope of reversing they inspectors’ decision. They have crowd funded £20,000 and secured a barrister. 

BYS4C have targeted Bristol Airport multiple times in the past, including joining protests outside Weston-Super-Mare town hall during the airport planning inquiry last July.

two people carry a large cardboard cut-out of an aeroplane with a red cross over it.
As always, there were some creative placards and props on show. Image: James Ward.
a protester carries a placard reading "Climate inaction = racism"
Climate justice was an important theme on today’s march, as this placard
people write on a piece of paper which has been taped over an advertising poster.
Adblock Bristol’s addition to the protest invited passers-by to answer the question “should Bristol Airport expand?” Image: James Ward.

Were you at this protest? What did you think? Let us know in the comments or at thebristolactivist@protonmail.com.

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