Thousands of students have skipped school to take to the streets of the German capital as part of a growing worldwide youth movement urging governments to take faster action against climate change.
Carrying signs with slogans like “I want snow for Christmas” and “The climate is changing, why aren’t we?”, the demonstrators gathered in a park near Berlin’s main train station to march through the government district.
Police estimated the size of the crowd at more than 20,000.
“The young people who are standing here and demonstrating everywhere in Germany now can definitely make a difference, and also will be seen by the politicians,” said 19-year-old Felix Osebold, a student from the city of Essen. “It can’t be that nothing is happening.”
Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who inspired the protests in Germany and elsewhere by staging weekly “school strikes”, headlined the demonstration, joining others at the rally shouting: “What do we want? Climate justice. When do we want it? Now!”
Taking the stage later in front of the landmark Brandenburg Gate, the 16-year-old told the animated crowd: “The older generations have failed tackling the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced.
“When we say to them we are worried about the future of our civilisation, they just pat us on our heads and say everything will be fine, don’t worry.
“But we should worry — we should panic — and by panic I don’t mean running around screaming; by panic I mean stepping out of our comfort zones because when you’re in a crisis you change your behaviour.”
The crowd applauded wildly and chanted “Greta, Greta” as she wrapped up her short speech and left the stage. She later met scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, just outside the German capital.
The Berlin climate change rally was one of more than 20 being held around the country.
The weekly “Fridays for Future” protests have been largely welcomed by German politicians, although some have criticised students for protesting during school time.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has called the protests “a very good initiative” and said she welcomed them.
Greta started last year holding solitary demonstrations outside the Swedish parliament to urge quicker, stronger actions to fight climate change.
Inspired by her effort, the weekly protests snowballed from a handful of cities to hundreds, fuelled by dramatic headlines about the impact of climate change during the students’ lifetimes.