County Hall is investigating claims schoolchildren protesting about climate change were verbally abused by a staff member and ignored by councillors.
The youngsters from all over Lancashire travelled to Preston as part of the UK Student Climate Network-organised ‘Strike for Climate Change’ event that saw pupils nationwide miss classes to voice their concerns about the threat rising global temperatures pose.
But the children and supporters, some from the anti-fracking groups The Lancashire Nanas and Frack Free Lancashire, said their request to talks to councillors about the climate emergency on Friday were ignored.
One of the protesters, a 13-year-old girl from Lytham said she felt “really let down” by the reaction – as footage emerged that appeared to show a council employee swear at the group.
The campaigners staged a sit-in within County Hall’s foyer, during which they said some workers pushed through them, swore in the presence of children and verbally abused them.
Footage captured by one campaigner appeared to show a woman wearing a council T-shirt telling protesters, with the use of an expletive, to shut up. It has been shared with Lancashire County Council which vowed to look into the claims.T
he video emerged on the day Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg made global headlines, accusing world leaders at a UN conference of failing to act on climate change.
The 16-year-old, who sparked a series of worldwide school strikes, told them: “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean, yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you?”
The Gazette has blurred the image to prevent the staff member at the centre of the row being identified.
The youths, who said they would return to County Hall to demand answers over climate change policies, said they were disappointed that instead of coming to talk to them, council chiefs called the police.
A statement from the climate change campaigners on behalf of the children said: “Nobody would speak to them or even come into the foyer to speak them.
“Shockingly, the response to the children’s requests for adults to speak them, was for reception staff to be replaced with security guards and the police were called.
"Several staff members were witnessed to physically push the children and a video has arisen of one Lancashire County Council staff member verbally abusing campaigners outside County Hall.”
A Lancashire Police spokesman said: “There is no suggestion of any particular issues from the protests.
“When we are aware of planned protests, we always work with the organisers to facilitate a peaceful protest.”
The 13-year-old campaigner, said: “I felt really let down when we learned that no adults would even come out to speak to us. Our concerns are real yet we’re not deemed worthy enough to have our voices heard.
“All across the world, children along with adults, marched peacefully together to see action on the climate emergency.
"Yet in Preston, the council called the police. This makes me so sad.”
A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: “We are aware of the video and are looking into it. We were not aware that the protesters were coming, or what they were asking of us, so there was no one available to meet them at such short notice.
“Everyone has the right to give their view through peaceful protest. Staff were instructed to use another entrance while this took place on Friday, due to the number of people in reception, which created access issues for people arriving and leaving.”
The youngsters wanted to ask about the County Council’s policies to reduce its carbon footprint.
They said they will return to County Hall and want a senior member of the council to acknowledge their concerns and take them seriously.
The anti-fracking groups Lancashire Nanas and Frack Free Lancashire members who have campaigned against the Fylde fracking site at Preston New Road, were requested by the children to attend with them for support.