Three weeks before the parliamentary elections, more than 100,000 people demonstrated in the Swiss capital on Saturday to demand that current and incoming politicians take action against climate change.
An alliance of over 80 groups around the country organized the rally, which flooded parliament square and the surrounding network of streets and alleys with protestors – many of whom were carrying handmade signs.
Initially, organizers expected some 25,000 participants, but they later raised the total estimate to 100,000, a figure not yet confirmed by the local police. All generations were represented, as well as a variety of environmental, social and religious interest groups.
Thousands arrived via extra trains. As part of the I Bike To Move It campaign, many bicycled for hours in order to join them.
Demand for a firm climate policy
As reflected in many of the banners and posters, demonstrators called on Swiss politicians to forge a consistent and effective climate policy – including a strategy to end the dependence on fossil fuels.
There were also many signs calling on private people to rethink their consumption habits, particularly in the areas of food choices and means of travel. Some groups served “pay-as-you-can” hot meals with reusable plates and cutlery.
Speakers on a stage erected in front of parliament included Nobel Prize winner Jacques Dubochet: “For over 50 years, those in power have praised money as a miracle cure so that people believe in happiness through consumption.” Vania Alleva, the president of Swiss trade union UNIA, called for an eco-social transformation of the economy and society. An indigenous activist from Borneo asked for a halt to investments leading to the destruction of rainforests.
Saturday’s demonstration was the finale of the Swiss edition of the Global Climate Strike.
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