After Monday’s exhilaration, today we’ve been pushing down roots and getting used to life in the capital. As we found in April, there comes a point at which it seems almost natural that we would be here in the roads. Natural, but also nicer: instead of car engines, choirs and samba bands; instead of throngs of busy strangers, free food and open dialogue (not least from incorrigible truth-teller Jonathan Pie!)
Not everyone seems to agree with the improvement: the Met have been making their usual efforts to dislodge these implausible utopias. The arrest count continues to climb – already at a staggering 550 – and it’s partly due to police pressure that several of our sites have merged together for greater cohesion. The greatest push appears to have been at Whitehall, where a line of officers and horses took 5 hours to move our rebels 5 metres.
Despite all this, the police response has yet to really follow through on the earlier tough talk. The seriously questionable tactic of disrupting our infrastructure (see Whitehall’s pilfered urns, below) hasn’t yet managed to stop a gradual blossoming of gazebos (largely just in time for this afternoon’s biblical downpour!), kitchens and tents in various sites.
And we haven’t been too quiet ourselves: XR Youth gathered outside the Department of Education to demand ‘Decolonise Education’ and call for school curricula to change to reflect and better prepare them for the uncertain future they face.
And we’re just getting started – this team can’t wait to see what happens when heroic rebels (including you?) occupy City Airport on Thursday. To join this action you’ll need to make a briefing beforehand, so waste no time in signing up!
We’re doing so well that it’s hard to imagine things otherwise. Let’s keep it up!
A selection of sites
Site 1: We Are All Crew
XR Bristol, Wales, Rainbow, & Farmers | Marsham St. & Horseferry St., London
We began the day early by blocking four entrances to the Home Office at 7am, with three rebels glued and arrested outside of the Department for Transport, four in the Department for Housing, and at least 50 rebels serenading police. Meanwhile, police attempted to remove tents on Horseferry road by using a bin lorry and refuse collectors as a guise to clear the area, but they were thwarted once again.
Neither a substantial increase in police presence nor the pouring rain has dampened our spirits. Evidence? The Aged Agitators (Bristol) faced off with the police, and rebels danced to Gomez ‘Get yourself Arrested’ in front of the Home Office. Our truck, Big Laura, still stands — despite the loss of the man on top of the lorry, heroically perched there for 32 hours while the police refused him food and water; despite the arrest of the final six lock-ons; and despite the three rebels in tents, their arms locked into suitcases filled with cement, who persevered for 24 hours.
After a long morning of arrests, we were joined at lunchtime by Animal Rebellion and South West rebels, who saved us just as the police had cut the last lock on Big Laura. Wales then valiantly moved their site to protect her, making way for a jam-packed afternoon of delicious vegan food, NVDA trainings, XR Farmers talks (including Sarah Williston MP), a guided meditation walk, a talk from Adblock Bristol, and dancing to the infamous Samba Band.
Spirits are high in the evening as we are joined by Bristol musical legend Dizraeli, Del Naja from Massive Attack, and feted by the Rebel Futures film festival – all contributing to a party atmosphere outside the Home Office.
Site 3: Global Food Justice
XR South West & Faith | Lambeth Bridge
Rebels in the South West have enjoyed a quieter day after the 12-hour onslaught of day one. There has been a calm atmosphere this morning on Marsham Street where rebels have spent the night after withdrawing from the Lambeth Bridge roundabout site. A group of rebels gathered outside DEFRA (Department for food and rural affairs) singing and handing out flyers to people entering the building highlighting the destructive nature of our food system.
Throughout the day there have been periodic requests for reinforcements to other sites to face off against an advancing police force. SW rebels supported the Victoria street action against the Government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). This issue is of significance to rebels from the Dorset area, where new rounds of oil exploration has just been licensed.
Site : Global Justice
St James Park
Migrant justice was the theme for today, raising awareness of the disproportionate impact climate change is having in the developing world and the impact this has on refugees and migrants. Vital topics such as the intersection of class, race and geopolitical power were discussed by luminaries such as Nobel Peace Prize nominee Benny Wenda, Asad Rehman (director of War on Want) and journalist Ben smoke. These talks highlighted how climate justice is linked to migrant justice, racial justice and housing justice.
Disabled access portals have been delivered to the site, meaning it can be held for the long haul. Police presence has been notably quieter, with the only intervention being a request to remove a wooden platform form a tree.
Many rebels went to the Save Latin Village and Rojava demos to show solidarity and draw renewed inspiration for their own activism.
Site 4: The Love Rebellion
XR East England & West Midlands | Horseguard Parade
Blocks have been strengthened across the day at site 4 with more and more protesters camping in the road. Tents and gazebos have sprung up all over the site with integration and food tents winding up to full power over the day. The police made a few appearances during the day but fortunately no arrests were made.
Rupert Read came to the stage today and took questions from the rebels. He spoke of the importance of managing the emotional weight of the implications of the climate emergency we find ourselves in. Norwich South MP Clive Lewis spoke about the importance of Extinction Rebellion in pushing politicians to act, a sentiment echoed by XR protestor Layla:
‘My mother brought me to protests when i was a child for the poll tax so I grew up with this understanding of what we can do when we put pressure on the government… what we can achieve when we come together as a community.’
Site 6: Truth In Power
XR Scotland & XR Cumbria | Victoria Street, London
At 6am this morning outside the Government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) 6 rebels locked themselves by arm into oil barrels filled with a biodegradable oily substance. Upon removal, this substance would be released creating an oil spill to highlight the locking in of future emissions through continued burning of fossil fuels. BEIS houses the OIl and GAs Authority responsible for climate change policy in the UK, the rebels blocked entrances demanding that BEIS present their plan for the climate emergency. No arrests were made.
The rest of the day has been peaceful with more rebels arriving and the site growing. A PA system running on pedalled energy has entertained protesters while speeches from groups such as Rainbow Rebellion (LGBTQIA+) and Free West Papua were given by activists. A projector is currently displaying XR symbols on Westminster Abbey.
Site 7: Burning Earth
London A | Trafalgar Square
The atmosphere at the Trafalgar Square site has been jubilant throughout the day. The site has held strong and continues to grow stronger with roads still held. A samba band has been keeping demonstrators entertained during the day and Orbital treated rebels to a stunning set in the evening.
Kitchens from three sites have pooled together to form a mega kitchen serving delicious vegan food to happy campers. There have been talks held throughout the day on the climate emergency as well as a panel event on climate anxiety.
A funeral hearse still blocks the Whitehall entrance to Trafalgar, a powerful symbol of the urgency and seriousness of the climate emergency.
There was a relaxed vibe on Whitehall during the first half of the day (we even thought of sending reinforcements to other sites!), but this was interrupted around 2pm by the appearance of an ominous police cordon at the Parliament Square end of Whitehall. It moved up slowly but steadily, forcing wandering rebels and passers-by alike towards the encampment. As the heavens opened, the police moved in for our kit, concentrating–rather confusingly–on tea urns and colanders (see picture), which gave rebels the chance for a hasty removal of marquees and a surreptitious locking of their tents. The stage was set. Big police vans rolled up with blue lights flaring, and as the cordon started pressing forward again, the arrests began. But in the gathering darkness our bedraggled spirits were raised up as we were led away in a moving tribute of song; songs sung for us, the arrestables, but also for the police, and for our bright rebellion. And though the police continue to pen us north of Downing Street, we remain in Whitehall as of 9pm thanks to our heroic arrestables.
The day started off with a very well attended meeting at the Global Justice Rebellion Site, as XR Youth continues to work closely with XR International Solidarity Network, EJB and the other groups on the site. Migrant justice was the theme for today, and we attended some incredible workshops, finishing the day on a high note with our rally at the Department of Education. Incredible turn out and energy despite the rain! We were joined by XR Universities, the Samba Band and many other supportive rebels along the way. When we arrived at the Department of Education, speeches were read from a number of young people and the drummers gave us a mass dance break!
Tomorrow we will be continuing to take part in all the activities and events happening on the Global Justice Site. XR Youth will also join XR Elders for a mass action at Trafalgar Square, happening around 11am.
UK Rebellion Needs
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Second Day of the International Rebellion: American Allies, Vegan Markets and a Naked Member from the House of Lords.
The first day of rebellion aroused media excitement. The second has led to a deeper relationship with protestors, their beliefs and their actions. The most commented-on media action was the sparring between Boris Johnson and Extinction Rebellion. XR explained how we thought Boris probably loved us because he came from a ‘family of committed environmentalists’. The Guardian, The Daily Mail and The Independent all published the message making sure he got our love letter. Rather more beautifully XR’s very own Rupert Read fought our corner on the BBC explaining how he protested for his nieces, as fellow rebels took the fight to ITV. XR’s international infrastructure for protest continued to catch the planet’s attention as CNN stated that ‘the tide seems to be turning’ in XR’s direction. America’s The New York Times described how we had ‘pushed climate higher on the political agenda’ and gave an extraordinary overview of our rise to global eminence, Germany’s Der Spiegel said XR was the ‘first symptom of (climate change) panic’, and France’s Le Monde commented on the ‘occupation for the continuation of the world’ happening in Paris. In London the Police admitted they were overwhelmed by passionate protestors, like the doctors who described direct action as a ‘moral duty’. Actions that caught the public’s attention were the activist who lay in a Hammock tied to Brisbane Bridge, XR Animal’s transformation of Smithfield’s Meat Market into a Vegan hub and the Tory Peer who continued the XR tradition of getting naked for Westminster protests.
Humans of XR
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I’m one of the doctors for Extinction rebellion and we are running a planetary health hub at the global justice site which is all about exploring the intersection between climate change and health, although today I’m here making teas and coffees for people on our mobile bike-trailer kitchen.
Like many people here I’m desperately concerned about the implications that climate change is going to have on human health and we’re basically trying to get people to make a paradigm shift away from this notion of anthroposophic health, where it’s only about the human, towards a definition that includes the health of the planet and seeing how they are intrinsically interwoven.
Since last year I’m having conversations about climate change with people that I wasn’t previously having; it’s not something I’m holding on my own anymore. My agenda is not necessarily to change people’s minds or to wake people up, it’s more to express the things that I feel I need to express and what is true for me, individually and collectively. If I need to grieve then I’m going to grieve and if I need to tell the truth then I’m going to tell the truth.
I don’t know what will happen to humanity, there are many possible outcomes. I’m trying to prepare myself, and with other people for all those different possibilities.