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Climate strikers send a clear message

Auckland school student Zoe Mills reports from the scene of today's climate change strike - one of thousands across the world 

If there’s one word to summarise the school strike for climate change in Auckland, it would be - ironically - fiery.

Today, thousands of students participated in the worldwide school strike for climate change led by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. More than 1660 cities and towns registered to participate in the strike in 119 countries.

The worldwide ‘lie-in’ aims to send the message to governments to ‘wake up’ and take real action on climate change.

This is the second time students have formally striked for climate change. The first took place on March 15, with more than 5000 students, parents and teachers showing up to Aotea square. Students in Wellington, Napier and Dunedin also took part.

The series of strikes were led through the social media campaign #SchoolStrike4Climate. The hashtag has been shared over 7000 times in the past week and has had obvious influence amongst students.

“I’ve only recently got into this (protest) because I’ve seen it online”, says Manurewa High School student Brodie. “We need to take action."

However, through all the theatrics of a protest, amidst the chants and cheers, it became clear this wasn’t just for show - these students know what they’re talking about. “We want climate action, we want a better zero carbon policy”, says 17-year-old Libby Morrison, a member of the committee that organised the Auckland strike. “We’re also a country that relies so much on (eco)tourism – if we’re not clean and green, then we’re being hypocritical."

A common theme among all the strikers was many will be too young to vote in next year’s general election. “(Protesting) is all we really can do as young people”, says 14-year-old Isabella. “We can actually get people to listen to us.”

Much concern had been displayed by parents surrounding the conditions of the lie-in, with complaints that this form of protest was dangerous and disruptive to surrounding traffic.

The strike quickly turned from simple chants into a full police-escorted march down the length of Queen St, with students stopping at intersections to lie down. Students engaged in impassioned chants throughout the march, led by the student organisers – “When the planet is under attack, stand up and fight back!”

Despite support from the general public, Mike Hosking has said they are "nothing but hot air" and just an excuse to skip school.

“Of course, there are always people that will use [the protest] as an excuse to wag school,” responded 14-year-old Isabella. “For us, it has given us an opportunity to get out there and do something about it (climate change)”.

If anything, the student strikers have sent a very clear message to all world leaders today:

#Wakeup.

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