Having been to my fair share of protests, I'm used to their often volatile energy. But believe me when I say that none I've ever witnessed have been as anarchic as what went down in Hackney early last Friday evening, when a crowd of nursery age and primary school kids descended on London Fields to demand action on climate change from "stupid adults".
"The climate is in danger because of us polluting it, and I don’t want to pollute it. I did a protest to stop it," five-year-old Sunday – the ringleader – told me, once she'd finished her second interview of the day with the BBC. Behind me, a toddler covered in glitter was hitting another child with his placard over and over again; another was crying, loudly. It was total carnage. But Sunday refused to be distracted. Having learned about the environment at school, Sunday had told her dad what she wanted to do next: she joined the Extinction Rebellion protests and read up about the Suffragettes, before deciding it was time she and her classmates made a stand.
"Now, there's loads of other people who I don’t know who are also protesting," she said, grinning. "Look how many people are protesting! It’s exactly what I wanted."
Climate change, Sunday informed me, is bad because it's melting the ice her favourite animals live on, and the human race faces extinction as well. "Listen, I don’t want to die out when I'm this age, so I’m protesting to get people to act quicker, not slowly," she concluded, before marching off to her next interview. 'What I want to say to all the politicians is: save the environment. And pick up your litter!"
It was inspiring to hear so many kids speak so passionately about climate change, but also: hearing the words "because we’re all going to die" directly from the mouths of so many children was a sad reminder of how urgently their demands need to be heard.
EVIE, THREE (BUT FOUR IN A FEW WEEKS)
VICE: Why do you care about climate change?
Evie: We’ve got to save the planet, else it's going to be dangerous. HAHA!
What’s dangerous about climate change?
FIRE!!!! And there’ll be no water. There should be no fires in the park, else all the grass is going to burn and that is not very nice.
Yeah, you’re probably right.
If the planet gets too hot then the continents will be full of fire.
Is that why you’re protesting?
I’m going to secretly tell Stan [Evie's friend] why.
Can you tell me?
We are all going to save the planet because we’re going to stop buying plastics. Also, we can’t let robots come in the park because they’re ginormous and they’ll eat people. I’ve finished now – I want to talk to Stan.
Hey Odin, what’s going on?
VICE: We’re here to stop climate change. I know it’s bad for the planet and factories are doing it. Take the polar bears on the ice. The ice is melting so they’re going to lose their homes and die. We need to stop using cars – they’re pointless. People should cycle and walk more.
What other ideas have you got?
If something comes in a packet, then recycle the packet. Take the packet off and put it in the recycling, or do what I do: take the packaging and use it for a school project, and then when that school project is finished I keep it because it’s cool, instead of throwing it in the bin. I don't want everyone to die.
What are you doing in the park?
Moon: I’m here to protest to save the world so we don’t make the world bad for the animals. We’re protesting and bringing signs. People keep using bad things for us, like smoke from aeroplanes and cars, and throwing litter on the floor and not using bins.
And what’s going to happen to the planet if we keep doing that?
It might get smaller. Well, smaller air. And the litter on the floor makes the soil bad. And that’s bad because I like the planet. It’s nice and colourful and it’s where we live and there’s loads of my friends here. If there’s too much climate change it’ll get foggier and there won’t be trees or plants or colour. Are you famous?
Are you worried about climate change?
Elsie: Yes, otherwise we will be destroyed and we won’t have anywhere to live. Right now, climate change because of pollution is very bad; most of the trees are getting chopped down for paper.
Have you got a message for the politicians not doing enough about climate change?
You should stop doing it – you’re making your home badder and also for us. I don’t want to say anything else to you.
What’s up, Flora?
Flora: I’m protesting because I know that we just won’t survive unless we do something. We’re protesting climate change and all the waste in the oceans. It’s just going to kill us one day. If we don’t start now then it’s just going to go [fart noise] in a few years. The thing is, all the air will be really polluted; we will choke and die. We will breathe in the air and we will choke and die. People with asthma will definitely die, probably quicker.
That’s really grim, isn’t it?
Yes, but there’s this girl called Greta Thunberg – she made a big change. She was just an ordinary schoolgirl, so we can be like her.
What would you say to the politicians in charge?
They suck for not doing enough about climate change. We know what we have to do, but they’re not doing it. And they’re all probably going to die soon. We’re still young and fresh – it’s our future they’re ruining, not theirs. Still, they say to us we have to alter the future, but we aren’t the ones killing the planet. It’s them. We can’t even drive!
Hey Blanche. How come you’re here today?
Blamche: I think it’s not fair on all the animals who live on Earth. They’re going to die and it’s not their fault. We’ve destroyed their home and future, and it’s not fair, so we have to change it now.
How do you feel when you think about that?
Sad, very sad. We need to not leave the lights on. If we want to go the shops, don’t get a plastic bag. My dad doesn’t recycle anything, which is silly! Politicians need to stop thinking about stupid things and think about the animals out there instead.
Why are you here, Sophia?
Sophia: We’re here to protest about the trees and the planet. Right now, they’re falling down because of climate change and how much we use. If it gets worse we are all going to die.
We need to stop chopping trees down and stop trucks. We need to stop polluting and to put things in the recycling bin. We’re ruining the planet and it’s making all of us die. It’s making the animals die and trees die and children die. And trees are good because they make oxygen. Also, rockets make lots of smoke and smoking does too. And smoking is really sick for you – you really shouldn’t do it. So just stop polluting and smoking and this will all go away, and it’ll all be fine, like in the olden days.