Newsletter 25: Love in the time of teargas
July 10, 2019 by Extinction Rebellion
(Sign up for this newsletter here)
Welcome to our 25th newsletter!
Our movement, which bravely faces up to the loss of so much, is no stranger to trauma – nor to tears.
Nonetheless, the efforts of French police to elicit both of these from rebels last Friday marks something of a new departure in our short history of grief, love and action. When the world watched riot police in Paris deploying teargas at short range on peaceful, seated protesters (footage may be upsetting), we witnessed a shocking level of repression (see below for more).
We hope the responses of love, shock and solidarity expressed both around the world and within the French government itself will prevent such callousness from becoming a commonplace reality. Whether or not the French police will change their ways, on the global scale we fear that this will not be the last time XR faces such brutality. We know all the same that such treatment will not deter us from doing what is right.
On the other side of the Channel, a new world was being envisioned of a very different sort. At Glastonbury, the world’s largest greenfield festival, 2,000 people joined a procession in support of Extinction Rebellion (in collaboration with Greenpeace and the Wisdom Keepers), to create the largest ever Extinction Symbol. Further to this, a dedicated XR tent offered a platform to spread our message of a safer, better world – and what we need to do to get there.
Essential to this vision is action from governments all over the world – so we’re heartened as ever to see another fortnight of fantastic actions in almost every corner: from Melbourne to Santiago, Portland to Finland, along with a whole host of UK-based actions.
And if you think that’s a whole summer’s worth of rebellion already, just see what we’ve got coming up! Most exciting of all is next week’s Summer Uprising in the UK, which promises to be practically April-like in scale. Five cities will simultaneously be rearing into rebellion: so if you live in Britain, no matter where you are, you won’t be too far off to help. You can see below for details – or just sign up right now!
We hope the Brits are feeling energetic, as we’ll also see uprisings this weekend in London and later this summer in Manchester, together with a wake-up call to newspapers and whatever else might be in the works… This all before they join the rest of the world in International Rebellion, which we can now announce will begin on the 7th of October.
In case this is all looking like a bit much, let’s not forget why we’re doing it. We released a stirring video this week, which sets out the simple case for action now. Keira Knightley, who voiced the video, joins a growing section of the cultural world facing up to the emergency. On Monday, 200 arts organisations declared their support of XR. (Speaking of high culture, we’d like to proudly unveil the first piece in a new series ‘Exploring XR’ – this week features XR in Northern Ireland!)
One British cultural institution that has yet to declare its opposition to annihilation is the ever-‘impartial’ BBC. Even here, though, there’s some space for hope: representatives from our Tell The Truth campaign will be meeting senior BBC figures this Friday, and on Wednesday BBC1 will air a documentary entitled ‘Extinction Rebellion: Last Chance to Save the World?’
They’re not the only ones asking this question, as Greenpeace and Amnesty International recently announced a global summit addressing nothing less than human survival, and 1,000 doctors published a letter voicing their ‘distress at the minimal response to looming environmental disaster’, explicitly supporting XR’s methods and goals.
Even the UK government’s Committee on Climate Change is running out of patience (just imagine how we’re feeling!). We can only assume, given the Summer Uprising’s goals, that the Committee will be joining us on the streets next week. If they’re wondering how effective civil disobedience really is in making change, we’d point them in parting to a curious fact: just ten days after a national outcry over the scenes on the Pont de Sully, the city of Paris has declared a climate emergency.
It’s not always easy to tell, and it’s not always easy to do – but together we are making a difference. Those writing this newsletter are incredibly grateful.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can help, please check out our guide.
To connect to rebels in your local area, get in touch with your nearest XR group. If there’s no active group near you, you can start your own! Stay up to date with local upcoming events here, or start your own event by filling in our talks and trainings form!
If you can’t spare time, but can donate money instead, please see our fundraiser page.
If you’d like to help us organise on a national level, we could use your skills in all sorts of areas from writing to tech to ideas to logistics. To join the effort, enroll in ‘XR University’, a buddy scheme for integrating new rebels into the ranks.
If you’re new, or haven’t fully got to grips with everything XR, have a read of this to get to know our history and the principles and values that guide our work.
You can sign up to Inside XR for a weekly round-up of activity from UK working groups.
And if you’d like to see previous newsletter issues, you can find them here
Summer Uprising – UK-wide
15 Jul | Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, London
It’s less than one week to go until XR UK’s biggest event of the season – the Summer Uprising! From Monday 15 July we will be back on the streets en masse, in a coordinated, regional rebellion across Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds and London. We encourage you all to head to your nearest action and join in the rebellion!
We will demand that government ACTS NOW to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025. We will be bringing attention to the rising sea levels, floods, wildfires, extreme weather and crop failures that are already taking place, as well as the thousands of climate refugees already displaced. We want our government to make ecocide law, defend nature and recognise that around the world people are already dying and being displaced by the climate crisis.
We held five sites in London during the International Rebellion. An environment emergency declaration by Parliament swiftly followed. Yet national and local governments are acting with neither the seriousness nor urgency required by the need for ecological justice. Instead, they are making weak commitments, encouraging ecologically damaging projects and taxing sustainable alternatives.
So now we will disrupt central locations in five cities across the UK. Each site will take independent action for different lengths of time, but our demand of government and councils is the same: ACT NOW!
We invite everyone, and every part of everyone, to join us! Please check with Extinction Rebellion UK and site-specific social media for plans. However, civil disobedience, family-friendly spaces, love,and music are guaranteed at all locations.
Please sign up on Action Network as this helps us get a good idea about numbers.
Find everything you need to know on the Facebook event; then share it on your feed to spread the word, and, more importantly, tell your family, friends and colleagues.
Find even more than you need to know in our press release.
See you in the streets!
XR France – Sur le Pont, Solidarity
28 JUN | Pont de Sully, Paris, France
At the 45°C peak of a record-breaking heatwave, French rebels peacefully occupied a bridge in Paris. They intended to spend the day singing, dancing and learning; instead, they suffered a brutal response from the police. The protestors were sitting and singing with their hands in the air when the police began to spray tear gas in their faces at point-blank range (be warned, the footage is quite upsetting) and drag them onto the pavement.
The French rebels responded with courage and steadfast nonviolence – see here for a moving account of the day – but also a certain amount of resignation. To many this was nothing new for protesters in France, and they didn’t expect much sympathy or even attention from the larger world.
But in this case, business did not go as usual. Videos of the action circulated rapidly on social media, shocking and distressing people in the global XR community and beyond. Greta Thunberg’s post of the action has over 3.5 million views. The XR global community responded with outrage and love, flooding French rebels with messages of support, and organising a flurry of solidarity actions outside French embassies in various countries, from London to New York, Copenhagen to Vienna to Istanbul. (In a sombre compounding of repressions, five Turkish rebels were arrested without apparent justification outside the French embassy in Istanbul.)
This international outcry spurred on a vigorous debate in France. The Interior Minister Christope Castaner called for answers, an official inquiry was launched, and there was a media furore, in which police chiefs were hauled onto panels to be questioned by members of government and XR France alike. French rebels staged another action one week later, announcing a campaign to encourage the media to report more on XR’s ecological message, and less on its tactics.
Given the backlash, will French police do things differently next time? Either way, we’ll know all about it. XR UK, in its letter to the French Embassy, pledged to send its members in support of the next such French action: “The next time Parisian police deploy tear gas on this movement’s peaceful protesters, they can expect to find rebels from Britain sitting in solidarity alongside their French brothers and sisters. We may come from different countries, but we will lay down our bodies for one planet”.
We can only assume that many XR branches share this stirring solidarity. We’ll let you know here as soon as France plans another action along these lines!
Rebel Rebel, Glastonbury
26 – 30 JUN | Glastonbury Festival, UK
Amid the partying and music, there was a palpable atmosphere of ecological awareness at this year’s Glastonbury Festival. From the single-use plastic ban, to the appearance of David Attenborough on the Pyramid stage, to the unprecedentedly clean fields at the end of the festival, most of the 250,000-person attendance seemed to be on board with the messages to ‘love the farm’ and ‘leave no trace’.
Glastonbury Festival has a long history of giving a platform to social and environmental groups — formerly CND and now Greenpeace, Oxfam and Water Aid — and for providing space for alternative and ecological ideas.
This year Extinction Rebellion joined this list, bringing its energy, love, vision, art and creativity to the party. XR had a visible presence throughout the festival and a ‘Rebel Rebel’ tent in the Green Futures field. Its programme included talks on the climate emergency and what to do about it, internationalist solidarity and non-violent direct action training.
On Thursday afternoon, XR, Greenpeace and the Wisdom Keepers took to the Park stage. The speeches were hosted by musician, Dizraeli, and included addresses from Ecuadorian shaman Kurikindi, XR’s Dr Gail Bradbrook and Greenpeace activist Rosie Rogers. The Wisdom Keepers said prayers for the Earth and called in the wisdom of their indigenous ancestors. You can hear more about this on the XR Glastonbury Special podcast.
Thousands of festival-goers then followed a recreated pink ‘Tell the Truth’ boat on a procession through the festival to the sacred space: stone circle field. Here, the afternoon culminated in the making of the largest ever human Extinction symbol. This truly was a coming together, a movement of movements joining forces to rise up and rebel. It was incredible and heartening to see XR reaching out to so many new faces and Glastonbury festival putting so much emphasis on the climate emergency.
Meidän veremme, Our Blood
30 JUN | Kansalaistori, Helsinki, Finland
Here’s a beautiful video of the ‘Our Blood’ action, as performed by Helsinki rebels.
Cambridge Streets for Life
6 JUL | Cambridge, England
This Saturday, Cambridge rebels reclaimed the streets for life. Several busy roads were blocked from eight in the morning to five in the afternoon, creating a vibrant community hub in space normally given over to cars. The event featured a pop-up garden, a freecycle stall, a ‘Rebel University’ hosting talks about the climate crisis and a tennis court on Tennis Court Road. Game, set, loved by all!
The taster has left many excited for the possibility of a permanently car-free Cambridge. Rebel Nathan Williams said, “We’ll be harnessing the incredible energy we saw today to make sure that the authorities have heard us and cannot dodge the issues any longer. Authorities across Cambridge have declared a climate and biodiversity emergency. They must now act on those words. With courage and will anything is possible.” With that drive, it shouldn’t be long until the Streets for Life are here for life.
Culture Declares Emergency
8 JUL | 13:30 – 18:00 | London, UK
Around 300 people assembled to discuss how to declare a climate and ecological emergency culturally. The event, held at the Roundhouse in London, was organized by Culture Declares Emergency, a growing community of creative practitioners and organisations concerned about the dire state of the planet.
Those gathered for the afternoon got their collective teeth into the challenge of how to galvanise via art when it comes to climate breakdown. How can we paint both the nightmare of the coming catastrophe as well as the dreams pointing the way to better societal setups? Speakers kicked off the assembly, including Farhana Yamin, Rupert Read and Paul Allen. The conversation was distilled in phases by a team of volunteer facilitators.
What emerged was a sense that culture would do well to become radically collaborative moving forward (the word ‘ego’ came up quite a lot). The idea of creating rapid and imperfect prototypes for a liveable, non-harmful future was also very popular. Something Paul Allen said rang true: ‘We must act wisely, no matter how straining. We must not waste this emergency.’
Exploring XR: Northern Ireland
In the first of what we plan to be a series of explorations highlighting the many local successes, challenges and quirks experienced by our members all over the world, we caught up with XR Northern Ireland.
XR NI is a relatively new group, but they’ve been hard at work arranging Critical Mass bike rides, open meetings and disruptive actions to raise awareness of corporate plans to drill and mine almost a third of the country. This corporate rapacity stems in part from a different legal terrain from the rest of the UK; but the terrain of resistance is no less special, with close cooperation between XR and other groups to fight these plans. Read the full story here!
Local groups continue to pour their incredible energy and creativity into actions. In the UK, rebels had a Carmen-inspired operatic procession, put on their own plastic-themed tennis match outside Wimbledon (squid vs plastic ‘naive’ bottle), strapped on their pink wings in Swansea for the Wales Air Show, and staged a medieval atonement ritual for climate sins.
XR Global has had another active fortnight, with die-ins, blockades and lock-ons a-plenty! There’s so much happening now that we only have room to summarise, but you can read about it all in greater detail here!
Latin America has seen its rebellion stepping up a notch, with Argentinian rebels successfully disrupting a speech from the Secretary of the Environment on live TV(!), and two die-ins from rebels in Chile. We were big fans of a banner-drop in Melbourne, and happy to hear about a gathering in Ghana.
European rebels have been busy, as ever: XR Spain was part of a strikingly successful alliance against car emissions; in France we saw an 11-hour blockade of Amazon HQ; Irish rebels were in turn blocking a government building, and were earlier disrupting the Irish open. Belgian rebels in particular have had a lot going on: a brilliant TV disruption, a shocking clampdown by police, protests at the EU summit, and a weekly ‘Critical Mass’ bike disruption.
And it’s possible Scandinavia takes the ecological cake for this week, with a beautiful bloodbath in Finland, a brilliant protest at the Norwegian Parliament, and a blockade of Malmö airport in Sweden!
Decentralisation is a key element of XR’s ethos. We’re eager to celebrate all the amazing actions that take place in local groups across the world. Please email us your story and most exciting photo to firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Story Contribution’ in the subject line.
‘Requiem for a Dead Planet’: Newspapers, Tell the Truth!
19 JUL | 12:30 – 14:30 | Northcliffe House, Kensington, London
XR’s Tell The Truth group will be staging a peaceful protest outside Northcliffe House (HQ of many newspapers, including Daily Mail) to ask the media to declare a climate emergency and join in the effort to save the planet. There will be model skeletons of extinct animals present, requiem music will play, and stories will be read out about people who are already losing their lives in the climate crisis. The event will culminate in a big die-in.
We need as many UK rebels as possible to attend this action. The TTT group also asks rebels all over the UK (and beyond!) to stage similar protests outside their local newspaper offices.
East London Uprising
12 – 14 JUL | Various sites around East London
XR groups from across East London are coming together to create a weekend of play, protest and education. Through creative and participatory activities, the Uprising will both bring our message on climate and ecological breakdown home to East London, and envision a better, greener future at the local level.
This Is Zero Hour: The Youth Climate Summit
13-14 JUL | Miami, FL, USA
This is not just any climate action summit. This is Zero Hour is an intervention, a wake-up call for the world and mainstream climate movement. Zero Hour are determined to tackle the systems of oppression: Colonialism, Capitalism, Racism, and Patriarchy; that are at the root of the climate crisis. Partnering with XR, this event will have many sister actions around the world.
All Rise For The Planet: A 2030 SHOW TRIAL
13-14 JUL | Tate Modern Museum, London, UK
All Rise For The Planet is an immersive creative experience not to be missed! The year is 2030 and climate destruction is in full swing. The Establishment is on trial for climate crimes and complicity, given everything they already knew back in 2019. You take your seat in the jury and get to decide, based on evidence presented to the court, whether parties like the media, academia, the government, industry, and the citizenry are found guilty. This event is in collaboration with Plan B Earth, 198 Contemporary Arts & Learning, and Guerrilla Foundation.
Reclaim the Power: Power Beyond Borders
26 – 31 JUL | Secret Location in UK (Transport details below)
Organised by the wonderful Reclaim the Power, this camp is jointly focused on the threat of gas fired power stations and justice for migrants, and will involve two days of workshops followed by two days of mass actions.
Workshops will cater to all knowledge levels, and cover issues relating to UK immigration policy such as the Hostile Environment, as well as how gas fired power stations are the biggest single source of UK emissions and an existential threat. Drax power station is planning to convert its remaining coal burning units to gas – a move that would blow any chance of meeting our emission targets and wed us to fossil fuels for decades to come.
Visitors will also be able to get up to speed on the latest campaigns from The All African Women’s Group, End Deportations, SOAS Detainee Support, Anti Raids groups, and others.
Live Canon – Climate Crisis Poetry Course
18 SEP – 11 DEC | Online/Correspondence Course | £150 (concessions available)
This 12-week course is open to all and explores poetry written in response to the climate crisis. Find out more about the course here.
Podcast: The Glastonbury Special Out Now
The UK Podcast team is back with a special podlet soaking up all the atmosphere from this year’s Glastonbury Festival. You can get the lowdown on David Attenborough’s appearance, the XR procession that led to that glorious crowd-sculpted XR symbol, and hear interviews with musicians, key activists, and even the festival’s founder, Micheal Eavis.
The Economist essay contest for ages 16-25
Deadline: 31 JUL
The Economist is running an essay competition on the question: ‘What fundamental economic and political change, if any, is needed for an effective response to climate change?’
Though The Economist – like so many other parts of the media – is a long way from telling the truth about the environmental crisis, this contest is a welcome means of expanding the discussion.
The winning essay will be published on Economist.com and the winner will be invited to their annual Open Future Festival.
Printing for Rebellion
Do you have access to mass printing services? Would you be willing to offer cheap/free printing of this very newsletter for the Rebellion? If yes, we would love to hear from you. Contact email@example.com. Eco-friendly/recycled paper options very much preferred.
A bit too young for XR Youth, but definitely too old for XR Families? XR Kids is on its way, set up by a 10-year-old rebel called Elsie. Sign up details will be out soon but, in the meantime, if you’re aged 8-13 and want to get involved in XR Kids, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Act Now: EU Petition for Kids to Plant Trees Every Friday
By JUL 2020
Tree planting has mind-blowing potential to help tackle the climate crisis. This petition urges governments across Europe to get school kids planting trees on Fridays.
XR UK Trade Unions Working Group
Involved in trade union organising? Interested in helping to raise the climate alarm within trade unions? XR Trades Union Working Group has launched – sign up here to receive updates or volunteer here to help organise with us.
Labour Party for a Green New Deal
By 12 SEP
In UK politics, work continues on passing the GND conference motion in as many Labour constituencies and Trade Union branches as possible before the submission deadline of 12 September. If you are a Labour party member or affiliate and want to help this grassroots campaign transform Labour’s environmental policy, let them know.
Act Now: UK Petition for Eco-impact Product Labels
By 25 DEC
XR on the Bridge – a moving written account of the hardship faced on the bridge in Paris, but also a sincere celebration of what it showed about XR.
Love letters to French rebels – a warming collection of supportive messages to those who directly or indirectly face police repression in France (in the same spirit as another collection of love letters to British rebels arrested in April)
Exploring XR: XR Northern Ireland – the exciting first entry in a written series where we’ll be exploring the many local successes, challenges and quirks experienced by our members all over the world.
History Corner – recognising and celebrating our environmental activism roots; this week, with reference to the Newbury Bypass and other tree-related protests
Climate Change and Why We Should Panic – animated video, narrated by Keira Knightley.
Citizens’ Assemblies and Palestine
– one of our members considers the idea of citizens’ assemblies in
relation to the Israel/Palestine conflict. XR does not have an official
position on the Israel/Palestine conflict.
In the News
On climate craziness, France’s record-breaking heatwave was made ‘at least five times’ more likely by climate change and more than half the world could see ‘record-setting heat’ every year by 2100. No surprises there. An in-depth read on Greenland’s melting ice points out that big summer melts are nothing new, but the problem arises when winter snowfalls don’t balance them out.
On the human side of the equation, over 1,000 doctors have signed a letter warning of the ‘damage to physical and mental health on an unprecedented scale’ due to climate crisis.
On resource extraction, time is running out for sand due to legal and illegal mining, mostly for use in the construction industry:
Predictably, all of the proposed solutions involve only ‘better management’ of the resource, rather than suggesting the expansion of the industry be curtailed.
A new report by Greenpeace looks at the shocking new gold rush for undersea rare earth metals. To imagine the likely consequences, read about how China is wrestling with the toxic aftermath of rare earth metal mining and picture that happening underwater with no meaningful way of containing the toxic byproducts.
On biodiversity loss, sea-horses are on the brink of extinction, along with the UK’s rarest bee that only lives in Devon. Meanwhile, human cultural diversity continues to take a hammering in India with grim proposals to create over 300 ‘residential schools’ for ‘tribals’. Survival International have produced this short film on the genocidal phenomenon and have a petition to sign here.
In more uplifting news, the National Trust will divest their £1bn portfolio from fossil fuels, Costa Rica is pledging to be fossil fuel-free by 2025 and new research shows that tree planting ‘has mind-blowing potential’ to tackle the climate crisis.
Thank you for reading. There’s so much exciting stuff going on that we barely have time to write this sign-off. Keep up the good work! If you have any questions or queries, please get in touch at email@example.com.
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