THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Thousands of students skipped classes Thursday and marched past the Dutch parliament, calling for more ambitious climate policies in the Netherlands.
The noisy but peaceful demonstration by Dutch students follows similar marches in recent weeks in neighboring Belgium that also have drawn thousands of protesters.
The protests there continued, too, with thousands more teenagers demonstrating in several cities for the fifth week in a row.
Belgian police said that in central Leuven alone more than 10,000 students gathered and authorities had to change the planned route to accommodate the marchers. Many thousands more protested in the capital Brussels and other provincial towns throughout Belgium as the youth movement spread further across the country.
Organizers of the Dutch march in The Hague said they want to send a wake-up call to politicians who are wrestling with how best to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.
They had hoped for some 3,000 marchers but got far more, although police did not give an official estimate of the crowd's size.
Students from across the Netherlands crammed into trains and buses, those from The Hague walked or rode their bicycles to gather in a park before setting off on a walk through the city.
"We're here because we want the government to take quicker and better steps to improve the climate," said 16-year-old Maartje Bood, who had traveled 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the northern city of Leeuwarden to take part in the march.
She and her friends were holding up a banner that said in Dutch, "We want the 11 cities race back," a reference to a marathon speedskating race over frozen canals in the northern Netherlands that is only staged in very cold winters when the ice is thick enough. The last race was held in 1997.
The Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency said in a report last month that a court-set target of reducing emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 is "out of reach."
A group of about 350 scientists and researchers published an open letter in support of the march, saying it is "high time for tough measures to quickly and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
Berber Neef, a 17-year-old student who told her school she was sick so she could attend the march, agreed.
"The earth is warming up, everyone knows that," she said. "We need tougher measures. The government has to act."
Associated Press writer Raf Casert in Brussels contributed.