On 28 June, organisations and individuals gathered on Bristol’s College Green to express solidarity with the EU. Voters under the age of 30 chose overwhelmingly to continue the UK’s membership in the 28 nation bloc, so the fact young people made up a large proportion of the audience came as no surprise. The event was optimistic and colourful, with everyone from pensioners to toddlers among the 2000 who braved the drizzle in order to voice their opposition to a Brexit.
Many young people at the event felt let down by the result of the referendum, ‘Leaving the EU is a big step back,’ said Tom, a 14-year-old with family in Belgium. Others felt that a Brexit could dilute the country’s eclectic cultural mix, ‘We need diversity in our culture,’ said Constance, a 15-year-old student from Bristol. ‘Migrants from the EU give so much and help make our country interesting and unique.’
The event, organised by Alasdair Cameron and Yas Ismail, an Irish couple living in England, boasted an impressive range of speakers, from representatives of Friends of the Earth to Bristol mayor Marvin Rees.
‘This issue will affect our lives more than any other age group’ said Daniel, aged 16. ‘Yet none of us had the opportunity to express our opinions politically. Many people I know are as engaged with current affairs as any adult, so it doesn’t make sense that we’re not given the opportunity to take part in the decision making process.’
‘We’re going to see the erosion of workers rights and environmental degradation,’ said another teenager.
‘I feel that a lot of people have been left behind in our society and they used this as a way to lash out,’ said Ollie, a young person at the event. ‘They were just normal working class people whose wages had been going down since the 1980s.’
While more militant anti-brexit voices can certainly be found on social media and elsewhere on the web, most of the young people present at the event on 28 June were expressing mixed feelings, sadness at Britain’s future outside the union and an understanding of the political forces behind the result.
It’s testament to Bristol’s resolve as a diverse, international city that even in times of national unease it can demonstrate peaceful protest without aggression.
Words: Barney Pite, aged 17