Rebel For Life; The Growing Movement
Grow Talk by Sofy Robertson
On Saturday November 17th, thousands of people gathered in London for the first Rebellion Day.
The protest, organised by Extinction Rebellion , saw five bridges in central London occupied by an estimated 6000 people.
Extinction Rebellion, a group that aims to get people taking part in non-violent but disruptive acts of civil disobedience, has been growing in number since the initial protest in London on October 31st.
In the week leading up to Saturday’s Rebellion Day, the group took part in a number of peaceful protests, including one outside the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, with the intention of bringing climate issues to the forefront of the government’s agenda.
Extinction Rebellion called Saturday’s Rebellion Day
“The climax of Extinction Rebellion’s first week of civil disobedience against the British Government for its criminal inaction in the face of the climate and ecological emergency which we all face.” (The Canary)
Following the occupation of the five central London bridges, protesters made their way to Parliament Square for an “Extinction Assembly”. Representatives from six nations affected by climate breakdown – West Papua, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Kenya, Ghana and Mongolia – addressed the crowd.
Raki AP from the Free West Papua campaign spoke to the crowd on Blackfriars Bridge, saying:
“I lost my own father due to the colonialism still in my home, West Papua. It is the home of fossil fuel industries, such as BP, which continue to destroy my homeland. The urgency with which we must fight climate change is felt by West Papuans every day.” (New Internationalist)
With approximately fifty arrests made in the week of protests leading up to Rebellion Day, a further eighty-five people were reportedly arrested by Metropolitan Police.
Legal help was on hand to those willing to be arrested and Netpol, following their advice in the video report War on Dissent, tweeted:
Rebelling for Life; Is it working?
There is no doubt that the group are gaining a lot of media attention and therefore they are succeeding in one of their goals of drawing people’s attention to climate issues following the IPCC report.
At the time of writing my initial article on Extinction Rebellion following their first protest on 31st October, the group had 10 000 Facebook followers. Now their audience spans over 30 000 on Facebook alone. There is no doubt that this is a growing movement, one that is gaining traction and support for its cause day after day.
Ultimately, the UK government is the target of Extinction Rebellion’s campaign of civil disobedience and, as yet, there has been no public response to the group’s three main demands.
Caroline Lucas of the Green Party tweeted:
“Solidarity with all those peacefully resisting species extinction […] Conventional politics has failed us.”
Although Extinction Rebellion’s aim is to gain the attention of the UK government, the group is reaching wider audiences than the UK alone. On 15th November, the group coordinated with Brazilian Women against Fascism UK and shut down the Brazilian Embassy as a way of showing solidarity for the minority groups in Brazil and protest Bolsonaro’s reckless plans for the Amazon.
Whether or not Extinction Rebellion are reaching their intended government audience, Rebellion Day and the acts that led up to it are just the beginning for the group who are planning a second Rebellion Day, due to take place on November 24th.
Our country has seen much division recently, with Brexit an ongoing battle and the newly published austerity report demonstrating the chasm that is widening between the classes. The movement that Extinction Rebellion has birthed is uniting people from across generations and ethnic backgrounds. The protest demographic reflected this, with speakers from six nations feeling the harshest effects of climate change, and families protesting alongside pensioners.
Seventeen-year old Amy travelled from Southampton with her grandparents and said:
“It’s our future, and I really wanted to do something. I found out about Extinction Rebellion online, and knew that it was the right way to show the government how much we care about our planet, and how we won’t let them ruin it for our descendants.”
Amy admitted that she “probably should be revising” for her mock exams at school but decided that standing up to climate change was “more important”. (New Internationalist)
In the weeks leading up to Rebellion Day, videos and social media posts were shared, containing messages from individuals who were willing to put themselves up for arrest. The resounding message from those willing to be arrested was that this cause was too important, whether to them as individuals or to their families and future generations.
Although Rebellion Day was geared towards the UK government’s negligence, the day consistently focused on how the fight for climate change must be viewed as a collective effort. One of Extinction Rebellion’s less publicised aims is that of togetherness; bringing together the citizens of the UK to address the plans our government has in place; bringing together the citizens of our planet to address an issue that affects each and every one of us.
Change cannot happen in a vacuum. Whether civil disobedience is the way forward to implementing the necessary steps to tackle climate change is debatable. The facts of the IPCC report, however, are inescapable and until these issues are addressed by the government, the call to rebel will continue to grow stronger.