Greta Thunberg was among a group of young activists who protested over a disagreement about the Fridays for Future movement’s demands.
LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Greta Thunberg was among 30 young activists who walked out of a major European meeting of more than 400 students who have spent the last nine months boycotting school on Fridays to demand action on climate change.
Thunberg, 16, has become the most visible spokesperson of the Fridays for Future movement after launching a solitary school strike in Stockholm in Stockholm. But during an emotional meeting Wednesday morning, the group left the main hall and sat down outside the front door, which BuzzFeed News witnessed, just before the conference was due to take up a draft platform of the movement’s demands.
“We’re on strike,” said Janine O’Keeffe, an adult activist who lives in Sweden and has been active with the strike movement since its early days, and who had been participating in a committee drafting the movement’s demands. Multiple other participants also described the walkout as a “strike” to BuzzFeed News.
Thunberg did not respond to requests to comment before this story was first published. But she said in a text message to BuzzFeed News after publication that she did not personally view the gathering as a protest.
“I did not ‘join a walk out’ or ‘join a sit in.’ We are going in and out of meetings all the time,” she wrote. “In this case I sat down outside the auditorium to comfort a friend of mine who was sad and upset at the time.” […]
The split began to emerge in meetings that BuzzFeed News sat in on Tuesday, but came to a head Wednesday as the conference was preparing to take up a list of demands. A committee had met the day before to revise a draft that outlined more than 20 specific policy recommendations, covering everything from reforming agriculture to curbing carbon emissions from boats. Thunberg and group of others recommended scrapping these proposals in favor of much broader principles like “follow the science” and “climate justice for everyone.”
“Not one of us agreed to all these demands, because they’re too specific,” Thunberg said in making the recommendation. Saoi O’Connor, a 16-year-old from Ireland, was even more emphatic in arguing against specific demands as the meeting broke up. “Our movement is strong because we haven’t had to do this,” BuzzFeed News heard them say to another participant.