Update #6 – A New Phase Begins
April 22, 2019 by Newsletter team
Days 6 and 7 of International Rebellion (Sat 20 – Sun 21 Apr)
As spring now spreads its (record-breaking) warmth across the global north, London’s International Rebellion is entering a new phase of its own. After leaving four of five locations in good order, rebels will meet at Marble Arch on Monday to decide where they go next.
Being Easter, it’s a time for renewal and rebirth. The past few days have brought their share of sadness, as we’ve left behind spaces so lovingly cultivated and so bravely defended, each with its own story and style: the serene Parliament Square, the giddy Piccadilly, the joyous Oxford Circus and, the flourishing garden bridge. These spaces were amazing creations – but let us not forget: we came here to transform not London, but the world.
‘Phase One’ has been a huge success. Holding the locations brought enormous attention to our cause: from press to politicians to punters. As all of these examples show, we’ve succeeded in getting our message across – even to our critics.
This success can be expressed in numbers: at the most conservative estimate we’ve welcomed 30,000 new members, and have received almost £300,000 in crowdfunding, the great majority of donations being around of £10. And if it’s a metric you’re into, we’ve had almost 1,000 brave people arrested.
But our deeper success is something past the quantitative: the innumerable moments of love, empowerment and belonging fostered in and between our lovely London spaces; car-streaked streets converted to oases of calm; friendships made and strengthened in a common struggle; and the international solidarity brought about by acting in unison with brothers and sisters all over the planet.
And that’s just Phase One.
Where we go with Phase Two is up to us. A proposal has been circulated for entering a “negotiations” phase. Despite being presented otherwise in the media, this idea remains only a proposal – and is entirely subject to the feedback and consideration of the countless members who’ve done so much to get us to where we are now. The primary forum for this feedback will be a people’s assembly held on Monday between 3pm and 5pm at Marble Arch. There will be food after this. If you’d like to understand more about how the decision process looks as things stand, please watch this short video.
As XR UK begins a moment of reflection (however long or short!), rebellions across the world continue to thrive. To give just a taste: we’ve seen a disco in Denver, glue-ons in Chicago, the exciting arrival of XR Pakistan and XR Austria, and outreach events in Uganda and Ghana. Like in London, XR Australia has also made space to take stock, and XR New Zealand remains as subversively/submersively creative as ever.
Before any other news, we would first like to pay our sincere condolences and respects to the family and friends of Polly Higgins, who recently passed away. Our cause is her cause. She remains an inspiration to us all.
The newsletter team
For a sonic supplement to our updates, please check out the XR podcast, releasing throughout the week.
If you’d like to help fund the mass rebellion as it expands across the world, please donate to our crowd funder.
Having mourned the departure of the boat on Friday night, those at Oxford Circus held a people’s assembly the following morning to chart their next course. Through a constructive dialogue, a consensus was reached that those holding the site would prepare to leave in good order, with the details of departure to be further considered and discussed – at which point the police arrived in numbers. Officers were by this point under instruction from the Home Secretary to use “the full force of the law” on protestors. We started to see what “a firm stance” can look like; we also started to see first-hand evidence – a daily reality to so many around Britain and the world – of an institutionally racist police-force (warning: the videos linked contain distressing material).
Such treatment of under-18s and bystanders can only be condemned. An assertive police response was understandable; blind aggression was not. But in the face of this escalation, despite raw emotions and tired minds, rebels refused to respond in kind and held fast to their non-violent practice. Over ten brave souls locked on and glued on in a successful bid to slow police; a crowd of hundreds cheered them on, accompanied by the sound and song of folk musicians. By staying for the intervening hours, the crowd tied up well over sixty officers from a concurrent push on Waterloo Bridge.
When the last rebel was removed – a 7-month pregnant marine scientist – those remaining began their move to Marble Arch. They sang the song of mourning from the night before, bringing their sincere and moving music down the length of Oxford Street. Shoppers stopped and watched this apparition from another world; they were given flyers, while six bin-bag-bearing rebels picked up any litter in the slow procession’s path, having first made sure that they left Oxford Circus in a spotless state.
The march reached Marble Arch to find a warm reception. Once again, the Oxford Circus rebels had faced a hard day and turned it into something beautiful. This work of sublimation found physical form in the shape of tens of ship-shaped pink hats, which bear the legend: “We are the Boat”.
The Easter weekend began in a relaxed manner in Parliament Square, and most of the Saturday passed rather uneventfully, with tourists, passers-by and rebels alike enjoying the large car-free space opened up by the Rebellion. By evening however, police had managed to move in and finally take the remaining gazebo – though not before hours of toil, trying to unlock and unglue rebels determined to stay put. The gazebo gone, the police unexpectedly disappeared – and rebels were able to spend another quiet, chilled night beside the mother of all parliaments.
Early the next morning however, the police were back. Taken by surprise, a number of rebels were not able to lock themselves in time, and the police quickly moved in to release those who had glued themselves to tarmac and tents. Rebels began sensing that the space was lost and it was time to start packing, if only for a time. They loaded equipment and materials into vans headed for Marble Arch, and started tidying up the Square.
As dusk fell, the remaining Parliament Square rebels conducted a closing ceremony, described as both sombre and upbeat, and led a funeral procession to Marble Arch. One rebel commented: ‘We’re leaving for now, but that’s ok’, as the square returned to the bustling, car-filled district of old. By nighttime, only a lone rebel remained in the area, and it was of course the man living atop the very tall tree on the northside of the square. Yes he is just a man in a tree, but he is also a symbol of how our message will live on: in the minds of the many who joined us; in the history books of British politics; and in the corridors of power, as MPs return from their holidays to walk where we once stood.
What a difference a weekend makes in this crazy world of Extinction Rebellion. On Saturday morning, police liaison officers were patrolling through a verdant bridge community where rebels were eating their breakfast porridge and practicing their downward dogs. By Sunday evening, the bridge was open to traffic, a barren and flavourless landscape of tarmac and passing vehicles. Waterloo Garden bridge, for now, is officially over.
The bell first tolled for our beloved bridge at lunchtime on Saturday, when a major police build-up began on the south end. From a herd of vans emerged another phalanx of officers, and they headed straight for the stage truck, the creative heart of the site.
Using a tactic straight out of the pink party boat playbook, the police encircled the truck and began to slowly peel off the rebels who had glued and locked themselves to it. The ever-ravishing Red Brigade mirrored the corden, kneeling before the stern agents of the law and imploring them with their mournful made-up faces. The police did well to resist their charms. As arrestables were carried away to cheers and chants (“we love you”), and refreshments were smuggled across to those rebels stuck in the kettled stage area, police set about dismantling the skate ramp.
By 9:30pm just a couple of protestors were left atop the stage truck, buoyed by the immense crowd delighting in their tenacity. Watching the slow, delicate dance of the harnessed police officers and the locked on rebels made for a mesmerising show. As dawn broke, the stage truck was finally towed away.
But the police weren’t done. They returned midday Sunday in similar numbers, stating their intention to clear the entire bridge. Police carting away rebels to distant vans is a sight we are all pretty used to by now, but this time the police started grabbing anything – chairs, bikes, plants – asking those nearest the objects if it was theirs and taking them if it was not. What resulted was something not unlike the final act of Macbeth, with rebels calmly picking up the many trees that lined the bridge and carrying them to the haven of a distant pavement – a silent marching forest. And as the great dismantling began, the rebel house-movers were encouraged by inspiring words from TV naturalist Chris Packham and Olympic gold-medalist Etienne Stott, both of whom made speeches from atop a nearby bus-stop. Stott then joined the remaining rebel arrestables on the tarmac, committing himself to a night in the cells.
By evening, police easily outnumbered protestors, and a made a few arrests on the pavement before deciding that the job was done. Our friendly, vibrant, verdant bridge finally returned to its joyless, carbon-pumping form at around 10:20pm. But Easter is a time of resurrection and the rebel soul still burns. Climate justice will one day be ours. And by Gaia, so too will this bridge.
Our ‘designated protest area’ started the weekend in a typically family-friendly fashion, with a special children’s area being erected so the little ones could paint and play under the shade of an awning, and avoid the scorching sun. Training sessions in nonviolent communication were also launched and ran throughout the weekend.
Come evening, the wholesome atmosphere took a slightly new direction thanks to the annual 4/20 festival taking place in neighbouring Hyde Park – an event celebrating cannabis and protesting its illegality. The air was gradually infused with the sweet smell of marijuana, and the XR camp thronged with curious visitors. With a candlelit vigil happening that night, and tealights set around the campsite, there was worry this might be a recipe for a fire hazard – but thankfully the only thing to result from this mingling of protestors was a bit more site rubbish to clean away than normal.
With sustained police clampdowns on Waterloo Bridge and Parliament Square, Sunday proved to be a day of consolidation at the Arch, with displaced rebels from the other sites welcomed with open arms, and the kitchen area quickly expanding to accommodate the growing number of mouths. Sunday also saw a record number of fresh faces entering the camp keen to join XR, and many were thrilled to find themselves instantly included and welcomed.
The Sunday lineup on the Marble Arch main stage was truly outstanding, kicking off with an international solidarity event featuring the speakers Esther Stanfrod-Xosei, Esther Hashem, Rumana Hashem, Magero Otiena-Magero (spoken word), Adaeze Aghaji, Robin Ellis-Cockcroft (XR Youth), and Kofi Mawuli Klu. But the undisputed headliner was Swedish schoolgirl sensation Greta Thunberg, who made a brief but brilliant speech, telling the jubilant crowds, “We are the ones making a difference, we the people in this Extinction Rebellion and the children’s school strike for the climate.”
A People’s Assembly then followed, with discussions focused on how XR might better develop links with the Global South where climate breakdown is already a reality. The weekend closed with a booming set from Bristol trip-hop sensation Massive Attack. With all the rebellion ground conceded elsewhere, one might have expected rebel energies to be low, but the vast crowd danced with joy.
Coming up in London…
- A family-friendly action at the natural History Museum; starts 1:30
- People’s Assembly – Monday 22nd Apr between 3pm and 5pm at Marble Arch.
- From 5pm, Monday 22nd Apr: Extinction Rebellion invites Londoners to share a feast celebrating life, community and collectivity. Bring throws and flowers to decorate tables at Marble Arch, 5pm. We look forward to feeding you. Snack donations welcome.
Getting involved in the Rebellion
The rebellion won’t last without Rebels. To maintain the pressure necessary for change, we need fresh faces to help perform our various actions and functions. This could means being willing to sit in the road and face arrest – but there are many other ways to offer support, whether it’s stewarding, being a legal observer, bringing food to sustain fellow rebels or helping to organise an XR team or branch.
If you’d like to get started, sign up online – or, if you’re in London, come to Marble Arch, where inductions take place at 11am, 1pm, 5pm and 7pm.
Online Visioning Circles for the rebellion
Clare Palgrave and I have just come back from an incredible 3 days in London where we held intention and visioning circles in Oxford Circus. We have decided to continue them online. Join our Facebook group ‘Holding the World in our Hearts‘ and watch out for the event pages.
Heart-warming stories of human connection
In the intro, we mentioned “the innumerable moments of love, empowerment and belonging” which have made and will continue to make this movement so special to so many (very much including the person writing – you guys are the best!). We’d love to celebrate these experiences: wherever you are in the world, if you’d like to share yours please email firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘XR Connects’ in the subject.
Disclaimer: we’re deeply, deeply appreciate of our fellow rebels around the world, and will do our best to cover their incredible, moving and inspiring exploits – but we can’t promise to catch everything! If you have a story that we’ve missed, please email us at email@example.com with ‘Story’ in the subject line.
This weekend, rebels hold die-in in Munich and in Cologne at several locations, including in front of the cathedral.
A die-in was also held at the Mall of Berlin to highlight harm of Fast Fashion, the Second Dirtiest Industry in the World, Next to Big Oil.
Saturday, rebels in Turin made a Dinosaurs standing déclaration of rebellion and die-in (video).
In Rotterdam a funeral procession was held on Saturday morning. “We, rebels grieve for the loss of biodiversity, we #RebelForLife, calling governments to act today” @XR_Rotterdam (see video)
To highlight the problem of overconsumption, rebels staged a hourglass-shaped die-in and a system-critical speech at one of the busiest malls in Tallinn. Security was quick to kick them out, but no arrests followed. A stream from the action is available here.
XR Estonia have also set up a temporary Climate Crisis Centre in Tallinn for people to make stencils, watch the UK live-streams together, discuss the various topics related to XR, grieve Hope and Future in our makeshift morgue (with a life-size coffin!) and educate themselves by watching the various XR talks. The centre will be open until Tuesday next week.
On Saturday in East Ghana at Agomenya Market in Krobo-Odumase, there was a rally to launch the Annual International Mother Earth Month “YAYOKPAKPA Sweet Mother Earth Rally for Climate Emergency” in Internationalist Solidarity with the Agomenya Market-Women and their Communities of Resistance.
Community outreach and environmental education on Saturday in Kampala.
During the first XR actions in Vienna, Austrian motorists reacted mostly positively to road blockades. “The climate crisis threatens us all, Civil disobedience works!” Extinction Rebellion Austria (video)
Protests by Extinction Rebellion took place in Auckland, Thames, Tauranga, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch and Dunedin on Saturday.
Over 100 people gathered as ‘the rising tide’ along the Wellington CBD’s waterfront. The ‘wave’ went onto the road at each intersection, blocking traffic, chanting, and chatting with drivers before returning to the footpath and repeating at the next set of traffic lights. The action finished up with music, open mic and XR themed hot cross buns at an inner city park.
“The merpeople of Wellington have risen to demand #ClimateJustice NOW! THE SEAS ARE RISING BUT SO ARE WE!!!” @ExtinctionNZ
Four bridges banner drop in Toronto on Saturday, “Despite the rain we were everywhere today! On the first bridge we were getting so many honks and waves (and a few middle fingers). We were just laughing thinking every bridge you pass under until you’re most of the way downtown — we’re there too! Thanks to everyone who came out and stood up for our planet in the rain and wind.” XR Toronto
In Portland, Oregon, Extinction Rebellion PDX rebels are blockading the Zenith Energy facility, an international oil and gas production company, by growing a garden directly on the train tracks (video).
On Saturday, Extinction Rebellion Denver held a ‘disco dance party’ road blockade on the Speer bridge route into Denver, one of the major thoroughfares into the city. Rebels visited the delayed drivers, giving them paper maché flowers and snacks and telling them why the disruption was necessary.
Denver police quickly moved in and threatened to arrest any who remained in the road. Five brave rebels stayed, several being forcibly removed after refusing to be escorted. A scarier situation resulted when SWAT officers with assault rifles were used to apprehend the 5’2″ young woman, who had moved the party disco van in to place. Six rebels in all were detained and given summons for obstructing traffic.
In Austin, three Extinction Rebellion rebels were arrested after super-gluing themselves to Chase Bank in order to obstruct “business as usual” for the biggest funder of the extraction industry in the world.
In Chicago, teacher, parent and rebel Joe locked himself to the doors of Chicago Booth fossil fuel conference: “I am choosing to use non-violent means to put my body upon the gears of the fossil fuel death machine.”
In Hawaii, Malu Aina XR rebels did a bout of sign waving at Pohakuloa Military base then headed up to Mauna Loa Atmospheric Observatory. At first confused, the weather station crew cheered them on, asked for XR shirts, and invited the rebels on an observatory tour.
Even More… There’s been so much going on around the world that it’s hard for even us to keep track. See here for a nigh-comprehensive overview. Here are some amazing actions that we might have missed during this busy week of International Rebellion:
Fridays for a Future, 19th Apr, Die in, Bulgaria.
On the 15th Extinction Rebellion Pakistan joined the Global Rebellion movement. With banners and posters at the National Press Club in Islamabad, young rebels get their voices heard, watch a video here.
XR Turkey rebels gathered in Istanbul’s Besiktas district on 15th April demanding government action. Elif Unal explained “we have a duty to act on behalf of our children” as “humanity finds itself embroiled in an event unprecedented in its history.”
XR Los Angeles has set up a climate camp in East LA! Joining other frontline neighborhood environmental groups in solidarity actions, to march, rallies and held a die in with #YouthStrike4ClimateLA, and movie night with Sunrise Movement. Rebels at the camp have also been trained in non-violent direct action and shared other skills like painting the streets with stencils, wheatpasting, and projecting on buildings around downtown LA.
An XR die in in New York on Wednesday let to multiple arrests by the NYPD.
XR Australia have put together an excellent post on their first week of rebellion. Beginning on Monday in Melbourne and ending on a coal train in Brisbane. On Thursday a peaceful demonstration was violently attacked by police, six were arrested.
Thanks for reading!
After 6 updates in 7 days we’re a little tired on the newsletter team – but we’re super excited to be sharing our words with so many new faces who’ve joined us in the course of our ongoing International Rebellion. We give you all a massive welcome!
Enjoy reading about the highlights of London’s Rebellion? Well now you can listen to them too, thanks to Extinction Rebellion Podlets – mini podcasts about the day’s XR happenings. They’re being released every other day, and Episode 3, which focuses on ‘Green Futures’ and how XR families feel about the times ahead is available for your listening pleasure.
If you’d like to share a story from the ground or join our global crew of roving reporter ants, then please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’d also really like to hear the ongoing stories of XR Affinity Groups during this momentous week of Rebellion. Help make and share history by emailing email@example.com.
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