32,000 Belgian students march to demand climate protections


BRUSSELS (AP) — Thousands of students skipped school for the third week in a row and more than 30,000 swamped the center of Brussels to demand better protection of the world’s climate.

What started out as a march of a few thousand high school students swelled to a vocal movement that Thursday also included many that skipped courses at university. Brussels police estimated the crowds at 32,000, who braved the cold and snowy conditions.

Another climate march — adults included — is set for Sunday. It drew some 70,000 last month.

“The planet can do without us, but we cannot do without the planet,” was one of the many signs carried around. Chants of “Youth for climate” were heard around the center of Brussels and the din of youngsters was reminiscent of fans cheering a famous football victory.

After some 3,000 demonstrators took part two weeks ago, the rally ballooned to 12,500 last week and nearly tripled in size this time.

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“It is something very important and I am really happy to be here with my friends, and save the planet,” said Kate Merhy, a 16-year-old student.

Many schools have been lenient toward those skipping classes, with several demanding selfies during the march as proof their no-shows had good cause.

This time, even some grandparents came to support the kids.

“We want to show our solidarity with our grandchildren who are so numerous here, and honor those who are trying to do something,” said Michel Depaepe, a grandparent of one of the demonstrators.

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