London Newsletter: Rebellion Day 4
October 11, 2019 by Extinction Rebellion
If you walked through Trafalgar Square this afternoon, you may have seen an innocuous looking sign plastered to a pole, quoting the words of Nelson Mandela “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
We must let these words resound in our hearts as we take stock and look forward to the days ahead.
We have indeed had to clear out of all but one of the original sites, had 80 tonnes of equipment confiscated, and seen over 1000 rebels arrested (including an ex-police officer and many grandparents). Perhaps it seems our task is insurmountable. But we will not bow our heads.
We are on the move, with plenty of fire left in our bellies! We are here because we believe that things can change.
And on the topic of moves, there were several stellar ones on day 4 (full video update here)!
The biggest story of the day was not in Westminster, but in City Airport where incredibly brave souls disrupted with glue-ons and lock-ons, with one rebel boarding a flight and disrupting with the truth on the emergency, and Paralympian James Brown actually climbing on top of a British Airways plane. Check out his emotional live stream from on top of an aeroplane.
As we enter this crucial phase in human history, our Rebellion will need money to make sure our message is heard. Anything you can give is appreciated.
Two wooden structures held the fort in Trafalgar; it took the police hours to remove the rebels perched atop. And there was a glorious impromptu march to Vauxhall Gardens, 1000 rebels strong, after they were turfed out of St James’ Park by police. See below for the actions of many more everyday heroes.
We knew that this rebellion would be different to April, and that the police were planning to quash us whatever it took. We’ve seen the police reach new lows to try and silence us. Today, a rebel in an electric wheelchair had his power pack confiscated.
One thing is clear: the authorities no longer see us as a cute protests group, but rather something to really contend with.
Faced with increasing police pressure and at times violence, this rebellion needs to be more agile than ever, ready to adapt and change our plans with little notice. If we can keep our heads and come together when things are crazy, we will be truly unstoppable.
What we’re trying to do here may feel impossible at times. To have a chance of preventing the catastrophe we face, the world needs ordinary people like you to step up.
If you have stayed home until now, it’s not too late to come out onto the streets. We need you here. And it really is a beautiful place to be.
London City Airport. Our biggest action of the rebellion. And boy did it hit the headlines.
Cut to the airport entrance, Thursday morning. Numerous rebels have glued themselves to the ground of the terminal. Several are atop of the barb-wired roof. ‘Shut this airport down!’ they cry.
The road taken by private jet owners is blocked for three hours by rebels on bikes.
At the other end of the airport’s infrastructure, a rebel boards an Aer Lingus flight, valiantly delaying it before his arrest.
And, in a feat of inimitable courage, an ex-paralympian rebel glues himself to a British Airways plane. “Here I am on top of a f****** aeroplane at City Airport” he says, in a heroic recording of his action.
About 50 rebels were arrested, and the action had come to a close by the end of the day.
These acts do not come without deep emotional sacrifices. It is terrifying to glue, lock, sit and march; our paralympian cried many times in the hours before his ascent. But we are driven on, bound by our commitment to what it true and good.
May the courage of these incredible individuals pay off.
After three incredible days, everyone held against odds and expectations, and every one ending in a beautiful party around our indefatigable arrestables, Whitehall finally fell last night, leaving only a lone ACT NOW flag to mark our passing. But spirits only rose as we relocated to a grassier, more peaceful, and more infrastructure-friendly site alongside the Love Rebellion and Global Justice in St James’s Park, and began sun-kissed construction of the gazebos and marquees that we had been denied in Whitehall.
Our camp was short-lived, though: the police returned, citing pressing monarchical security concerns as they began sweeping up tents and the rebels in them. While our regional rebel neighbours formed human chains and dismantled kitchens at lightning speed, the SE grabbed its bags. With the invaluable help of a godsent samba section, a lovely police liaison (thanks Dave!), and a crack micro-trained stewarding troupe, we set off as one past Buckingham Palace for Vauxhall Bridge–where, we hoped, police liaison, Lambeth Council support, and our sheer noisy numbers would have softened the police resistance that had met XR Scotland before us.
And so it proved, with smiling police lining the bridge to see us across and a motorcade blocking traffic for us on the other side. An unanticipated and hastily planned action it was, then, but a success it was too: two disruptive hours, one joyful mid-route encounter with the rebel Critical Mass, and the curious experience of finding one’s march stuck in traffic later, we chanted our way into Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, where we are now encamped, rota’d and resting ready for a grand day of action tomorrow.
Between 11 and 12 this morning we had many arrests, but later it went quiet. However, the overriding theme here as elsewhere has been Police trying to remove our infrastructure and blocking our efforts to bring in the most basic necessities such as toilets. All this as more and more people come to Trafalgar from other sites that were cleared out by the police.
Trafalgar is, as always, the center of such collective richness and wisdom, and today was no different. We were joined by two members of the Alevi Foundation pictured below.
Their message was: “Our faith teaches us that every living being has the same rights to be on this planet as us and we have to respect that. Also we like to rebel!”
We were also joined by Monika Sobiecki, a lawyer, who stressed that “It is fundamentally important that the law engages with the climate and ecological emergency.”
Trafalgar was also a place where the XR Farmers and their sheepdog distributed fresh Welsh apples from their pink wheelbarrow. They are still delivering despite their numbers being depleted by arrests and court appearances!
Also ending in Trafalgar Square after a tour of Central London were more than 500 cyclists, festooned with fairy lights and including the giant 2-person, 2-wheeler Big Betty. Quite the Critical Mass Bike ride!
Global Justice at St. James Park
There was a teach-in today on global justice, pictured below, helping us all better understand what this is, why it is important, and what shall be our next steps.
However, about 2:25 the Police started moving in and have been moving unoccupied tents. They are saying that we shouldn’t be in St. James because our presence hinders the security for the opening of Parliament.
Power in Truth – XR Scotland & XR Cumbria |
The campers on top of the food van outside Westminster Abbey came down without arrest at 10pm. The last of the lock-ons finally agreed to unlock from the stage at 5am this morning. Chalk on the roads is all that is left of the original Site 6 at Victoria Road.
Scotland, Cumbria and NE England rebels mostly camped at St James Park with what remains of the Love Rebellion.
The Power in Truth site began the day with debriefs and peoples’ assemblies under the huge London Plane trees and watched the parakeets, coal tits, greater blue tits, and squirrels.
Around 1.30 pm police told people to leave the park and move to Trafalgar Square. They took everything that wasn’t guarded and piled it up. Rebels created a human chain to prevent the police from reaching the kitchen while it was packed up and moved. A few arrests were made as some rebels attempted to slow police progress or save infrastructure, but groups dispersed around 4pm. Some were followed by police, or stopped and questioned in the street.
A plan came out to reassemble at Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens but police were stopping rebels attempting to cross Vauxhall and Lambeth bridges. Via taxi, underground, or PL negotiation, eventually ~300 rebels have set up camp in the park, enjoying a very small police presence.
Action is being planned for tomorrow to take a new disruptive site, the location of which is secret and time is unconfirmed.
After finding a brief but welcoming home at the Power In Truth site with other Northern and Scottish rebels, we were pushed from that site after a night. A few of our rebels remained locked and glued on (including one glued to a chair!) for hours afterwards before being arrested.
We ended up in St James park, which provided a much needed restful night sleep. This morning we held a Rewilded North meeting, where we agreed that we’d set up a Northern Quarter within St James park – which we did, albeit only for a few hours. Unfortunately police began forcefully clearing tents and infrastructure and our northern rebels continue to spend no more than one night in one site.
However spirits remain high, and the resilience shown by all our rebels has been amazing. An emotionally moving procession took us to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, where we have hopefully found a place to rest and hold a regen space for a few days. We had another meeting this evening, where plans for swarming tomorrow were drawn up, and inspiring stories of the day were shared to keep energy up.
Despite a tiring few days of constantly moving, despite the police moving in again, despite only a few arrestables in our midst — our Northern nomad spirit remains strong, and there is massive love and support from all sides.
Angie Zelter appeared in Westminster Magistrate Court after her second arrest this week and is being held over for two nights. She pleaded guilty to a charge of Obstruction of the Highway.
Three XR Peace grandparents and a 93 year old great-grandfather were locked and glued on the road at Trafalgar Square for 5 hours, helping to keep the road around the Square blocked after the wooden box tower was cleared by the Police. When it did not look like the Police would move to clear the road, they eventually decided to unlock and get a good rest overnight.
The Future is Now tent kept rebels busy into the evening with informative talk by Dr Emily Grossman telling us the truth our Governments refuse to tell. The Yonis followed with participative dance before one of Britain’s most popular comedians, Nish Kumar, gave an on-point set to friendly heckles from the crowd. Fellow comedian Jordan Grey kept the laughs coming before finishing the night with Robin Boardman and DJ Dan Foster. Insta stars, The Vegan Couple, gave a talk on the urgent necessity to free animals from human oppression in the Animal Rebellion tent.
It was an early start for rebels who quickly occupied the road facing down Whitehall as police tried to take control. Over a couple of hours police systematically moved through the crowd asking rebels to move onto the pavement or risk arrest. Many brave rebels held fast and were subsequently arrested. Fellow rebels supported with chants, and speakers kept up morale including Aussie aboriginal activist, Jarmbi.
Also, international lawyer Farhana Yamin read out the Lawyers Declaration of Rebellion that launched yesterday. Whilst arrests were taking place as a distraction, police were able to remove the hearse. RIP. At the same time, police took the opportunity to remove the train of bathtub sail-boats, making several arrests and leaving only two tubs standing. The police moved in on the road-blocker near The Strand. Two rebels were slowly removed by tactical police and a JCB. Another wooden box road-blocker appeared in front of the main stage which rebels continue to hold, along with the trailer box, the only remaining road-blocker from day 1.
“The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.” – (Quoted from Hegel by Sven Maren of XR Scientists)
About a hundred rebels from Animal Rebellion gathered peacefully outside the offices of DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) in London on Wednesday to call for the transition to a sustainable plant-based food system. Animal Rebellion insists that such a transition is essential if we are to avert climate breakdown, much of which is fuelled by animal agriculture. As the Amazon fires currently raging make very clear, saving the animals and the trees go hand-in-hand.
Seven courageous activists locked themselves down in front of DEFRA, as about a dozen police officers stood guard. Despite the heavy police presence, a crowd of activists from all walks of life, including families and children, gathered in an atmosphere of joy and hope. Well-known international animal advocates joined the crowd, offering support and inspiration. The support action lasted almost two hours, as DEFRA staff looked on, sending a powerful message about the urgent need for system change.
Politics and Media Briefing: Hong Kong Tactics, Lazy Stereotypes and Political Progress
The story that captured international attention was the attempted occupation of London City Airport. Everyone from the Daily Mirror to Forbes revelled in boldness of XR protestors, particularly that of James Brown, a paralympian, who was on an aeroplane roof for an hour before getting arrested. Other notable arrestees include fellow athlete and Olympic gold medallist Etienne Stott.
Journalists marvelled at the seriousness of the Hong Kong inspired efforts while also providing a lot of attention towards Doctor Strange, also known as Benedict Cumberbatch, who sat with protestors at Trafalgar Square on Wednesday evening. A folly of Spectator writers Jones, Young and Liddle continued to take aim at XR protestors with tired stereotypes that strongly focussed on the anti-capitalist appearance of protestors and failed to confront any of the demands XR is fighting for.
More constructively an article on Red Pepper urged XR to notice the colonial debt the UK has towards climate disaster in the Global South. The Financial Times and The Economist paid tribute towards the strategy of XR. The former argued that oil companies should quit doing business with overly extravagant users of carbon arguing that this policy ‘might even resonate amongst Extinction Rebellion. The latter, whilst lazily describing XR as ‘anarchists’, commended the decentralised leadership structure that allowed so many different forms of direct action.
In Australia ‘Labour members from inner Brisbane… unanimously passed a resolution condemning the mass arrests of climate activists’ describing the Queensland government as ‘authoritarian’, in Germany Die Zeit celebrated XR’s centrist positioning in attempting to ‘get as many people out on the street as possible without excluding anyone’.
XR was largely embraced by the political left with Corbyn comparing protestors to suffragettes. Adonis courted XR in the New European saying they should align themselves with the People’s Vote in order to reach the 3.5% target of civil disobedience. Alex Sobel, Labour MP for North West Leeds, speaking to rebels said that he was translating protestors voices into legislation and introducing a bill to Parliament that would satisfy all three of XR’s demands. The Guardian also came back for another day of excellent articles holding the fossil fuel industry to account.
FRI | 5 – 9pm | Main Stage, Trafalgar Square
Experimental theatre legend – and popular telly actor – Simon McBurney has put together the literary marathon in support of our current occupation of Trafalgar Square. It’ll run between 5pm and 7pm tomorrow and will feature 40 writers reading poems and prose about nature, ecology and the current climate crisis for five minutes each.
Writers appearing will include Ali Smith, Naomi Alderman, Chloe Aridjis, AL Kennedy, Helen Simpson, David Harsent, Daljit Nagra, Paul Farley, Glyn Maxwell, Susie Orbach and many many more.
This is not one to be missed.
FRI | 5 – 6 pm | Location TBC
Other Trafalgar Events
- An amazing 360 VR video of the Trafalgar Square takeover
- Resilience expert Dr Chris Johnstone offers some strategies that can help when your mental health is affected by the crisis
- Watch Paralympian James Brown’s live video from on top of a plane at London City Airport
- A reflection of why it’s time to add global justice to XR’s demands
Humans of XR
Joy, 18, Student
“I am here because I want to try and save the future for my three younger brothers and my own future. We’re all people from different backgrounds and before this we didn’t know each other but one cause makes us come together like a big family. It’s really nice – I’ve made so many good friends. I’ve found ways to express myself differently as part of XR, especially as part of the Art Blockers. It just lets me be myself more.”
“I’m here because I don’t want climate change to destroy us. The government needs to know that they are going to destroy us.
XR need to report the action of disabled rebels more. You give so much attention to arrestables, when it takes me a huge amount of effort even to be here! Just to get here!
It’s hard to rebel now the police have taken disabled toilets and ramps. They even took the battery pack out of my electric wheelchair. They told me to ‘go home’. And as they were clearing tents they injured my leg!
Telling a disabled person to ‘go home’? Injuring my leg? It’s just not on!
But I’m not giving up. I’ll be here ‘till the very end. I’m happy and pleased for those who’ve been arrested. Well done! And good luck to everyone!”