UK Newsletter 7: Read at your own risk

Dear rebels,

Happy new year (as happy as starting another year in a climate crisis can be ..) and welcome to our first UK newsletter of 2020!

The start of a new year and a new decade brings with it a momentous opportunity to start on a new journey towards a brighter future where we live in balance with nature. 2020 with the COP planned on our home turf this November, must be the year that we win. 

If you want to help define how we’ll make that change happen, contribute to the strategy surveys that have been sent to your local group coordinator. 

Photo: Viv Collis

Rebels, across the UK didn’t waste any precious time to kickstart the year in true rebellious spirit. Dancing away the old and bringing in the new with good tunes and even better moves in Cornwall, transforming a BP gas station into an art exhibition, delaying HS2 works and scaling a gas rig in Scottish waters.

Yet, the Government and the police can’t seem to shake off their old habits of responding to peaceful protest with disproportionate intimidation, as the police erroneously included XR, along with other non violent environmental groups, in its anti-radicalisation scheme. An NHS nurse, of over 30 years service, shares her personal account and why we can’t be silenced by fear.

If you’d like to help, please check out our guide and learn more about XR.

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

If you’d like to see previous newsletter issues, you can find them here.

This Rebellion needs your support. Anything you can give is appreciated.

Contents

  • Announcements
  • Stories of the week
  • XR content
  • Humans of XR

Announcements

Action highlights – show us your best

What was the most beautiful, disruptive, innovative or effective action you were a part of last year? We are putting together a showreel of the best actions so far and we need your input! 

What have you organised in your local group that you can share? Send a photo, 100 words about how you created it, and links to any media coverage to xractions@protonmail.com

– they’ll be showcased together soon.

Tune in to Rebel Radio

Rebel Radio continues into 2020 with bi-weekly shows every Tuesday and Friday at 11am with news from the ongoing climate and ecological emergency and a series of shows from Podcast Live, Humans of XR, Our Positive Future, the Emergency Panel, XR Youth and a special investigation into fossil fuel subsidies and disinformation. 

Follow @xr_rebelradio on Twitter for updates and to listen back to previous shows visit mixcloud.com/XR_RebelRadio/

Got a story to share? Email Rebel Radio on xrrebelradio@gmail.com

Taking Power at the Local Level

Want to make changes in your community to stop the climate and ecological crisis?

Find out how you can build power locally in radical ways, with tools on reclaiming local politics, here. With 800 elections in May 2020 and more to come in 2021, the time is now. 

X-Art looking for spaces

Rebel artists are looking for spaces to paint climate crisis themed murals.

If you or anyone you know has a space (end of a terrace house, walls of businesses, garage doors, etc.), please contact matt.s-xr@protonmail.com to get your own local, beautiful, and free XR mural!

We have talented artists like Dale Grimshaw, Jane Mutiny and many more ready to paint away.

Or if you would like to canvas your local area, we have letters you can hand out. 

Upcoming

26-28 Feb | We Are the Dead Canaries | Durham

Bradley Opencast – Pont Valley, County Durham

As fires scorch the Earth, the UK continues to extract and burn fossil fuels. Durham County Council have declared a Climate Emergency, and yet, in the beginning of March they will vote to approve the expansion of an open-cast mine. 

Known as ‘strip-mining’, this form of extraction is unrivalled in its ecological destruction, and will leave a gaping hole in the green ‘Roof of England’. And all this for coal: by far the most damaging fossil fuel in terms of CO2 and air quality.

People all over the county have joined in opposition to the project, but they’re up against powerful interests. Together, we can stop this madness!

Each Wednesday throughout February we will carry out a series of pressure building actions, culminating in a mass disruptive action on the 26th-28th.

Rebels from all over the UK are warmly invited to join us and prove that change is possible. Join the Telegram Chat.

28 JAN | 6:30 pm | Panel Discussion – Climate Justice: Grassroots Activism | The Curtain, Shoreditch

Want to know what you can do in your community to fight the climate crisis?

Grassroots Activism is in the spotlight at The Curtain (Shoreditch) on Tuesday the 28th where our panel will glean valuable insight into the fight for climate justice.

The panellists are: Asad Rehman (War on Want), Kieran Kirkwood (Wretched of the Earth), Fope Olaleye (NUS Black Students Officer) and Aurora Hacker (UK Student Climate Network).

Tickets are available on Eventbrite.

Stories of the week

Extremism Rebellion?

10 & 17 JAN | UK

A visual guide produced by police to help teachers, medics, and civil servants spot and report potential terrorists has included Extinction Rebellion and its symbol.

The guide, uncovered by the Guardian newspaper and dated June of last year, put Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace and other peaceful environmental movements alongside violent neo-Nazi and jihadist groups. 

It is used as part of Prevent, an anti-radicalisation scheme encouraging public sector workers to report people to counterterrorist police. Extinction Rebellion UK called our inclusion in the guide “Crude. Divisive. Dangerous.”

The ramifications of putting XR alongside violent far-right and terrorist organisations is already being felt by rebels who work within the public sector. A senior NHS nurse with a thirty year unblemished record was recently told by HR that she would be referred to Prevent after she was arrested during the October rebellion. 

Read her personal account here.

Doctors, teachers and midwives around the country who are involved with XR are now being placed in similar positions, forced to choose between their careers and their right to peacefully protest the climate and ecological crisis. 

Local XR groups are planning a series of solidarity actions to show that rebels will not be silenced or intimidated.

When the Guardian uncovered a regional police document earlier last week that listed XR alongside extremist groups, the decision was defended by Priti Patel, the Home Secretary. Police however eventually claimed it was a local “error of judgement” and that the document would be recalled. 

The emergence of this new visual guide, published throughout England, along with testimonies this newsletter has recieved from rebels saying they have been threatened with referal to Prevent, shows that XR’s inclusion is actually national counter terrorism policy.

The police have claimed that not all the signs and symbols in the guide are of counter terrorism interest, but within the guide a disclaimer only appears next to certain religious and historical symbols adopted by white supremacists. The XR symbol has no such disclaimer.

Photo: james-liu.format.com 

There is no legal definition of what “extremism” or “domestic extremism” means, and controversy over its loose usage led the Home Office to stop using the term last year. The police however still use the classification as a means to justifying intensive surveillance

This unjustified inclusion, along with other peaceful climate movements, falls within the same trend as the unlawful London wide ban imposed in October, under section 14, where authorities act in full disregard of civil liberties in rash attempts to maintain the status quo. 

But if October taught us one thing, it is that rebels won’t be silenced by fear.

Rig Rebels Boldly Go

6 – 16 JAN | Dundee & Aberdeen, Scotland

Rebels from XR Scotland upped the action ante this month by occupying a Shell gas rig parked in Dundee Harbour.

Three brave rebels, all women, climbed aboard the Valaris 122 rig to stop its imminent journey to oil fields in the North Sea. 

The Scottish government claims to be a world leader in tackling climate change, yet is still committed to long-term extraction of fossil fuels from the region.

After five hours of occupation, deteriorating weather conditions forced the rebels to climb down.

They were arrested along with three other rebels who had attempted to scale another leg of the rig earlier in the day.

Industry body Oil and Gas UK condemned the action as a “dangerous and short-sighted stunt”.

An XR Scotland spokesperson replied: “Unlike Oil & Gas UK, we knew when it was sensible to stop. What is really lacking in foresight and dangerous is continuing to drill, extract, burn and explore for ever more fossil fuels.”

Scottish rebels also blockaded Shell’s Aberdeen headquarters on Thursday. Thirty protestors managed to obstruct all entrances to the building for thirteen hours! They brought along the Red Brigade and a purple boat for support.

Twenty companies alone are responsible for a third of the world’s carbon emissions, and Shell is even in the top ten of global emitters.

Rather than reducing extraction of oil and gas reserves, companies like Shell and ExxonMobile are set to ramp them up. Both companies are projected to increase production by more than 35% over the next decade, a sharper rise than during the previous one.

For more details on these brave actions, direct from the rig rebels’ mouths, you can watch this video and read this article and then this one.

Cambridge Turns BP Garage into XR Gallery 

18 JAN | Cambridge 

Cambridge rebels brought some colour to the city on Saturday when they took over a BP petrol station near the centre of town, turning it into an all-inclusive exhibition and event space

The action began around 9am and lasted until well after nightfall. The sunny day saw everything from poetry readings to rebel art exhibits, music, dance, and even a bathtub performance. 

One rebel posted: ‘Cambridge XR in full swing Saturday afternoon. BP garage the focus of attention. I am very touched by all there, all with an evident sense of care and unity. I particularly enjoyed the passing around of biscuits, soup and teas, hand warmers with such tenderness.’

XR art ‘My Village School in the Next 50 Years’ by Jane and Idit on the BP in Cambridge. 

Picture: Mike Scialom

However, there was some aggression from motorists which resulted in one rebel being knocked to the ground and another reporting a non-serious injury from a car that attempted to push through the barricade. Rebels used their resilience and training to de-escalate the situation and eventually the spirit of unity won the day. 

The action was part of Rebel for Justice – a comprehensive campaign to shut down the city-centre with a week-long road-block in February if the demands are not met. Including Hive Activity: A pressure building operation of twice-weekly swarming in Cambridge in the lead up to Rebel for Justice. 

Rebel for Justice seeks to highlight the link between social justice and climate justice

As stated on the XR Cambridge website: ‘Our exploitation of the natural world goes hand in hand with our exploitation of communities around the globe and our history of colonialism and capitalism (…) Today, it is the poorest and most marginalised people in the world who are bearing the brunt of climate catastrophe – which results largely from the actions of the most wealthy’

Clearly Cambridge rebels aren’t afraid to put their bodies on the line for the cause they believe in. This essential change must come through any means necessary, be that road-blocks or art-exhibits. There is nothing that can stop these fierce and loving rebels in their selfless pursuit of justice.

Discobedience-on-Sea 

 1 JAN | St Ives, Cornwall

St Ives and West Cornwall rebels brought in the new year with some spectacular Disco-bedience. 

About 60 rebels danced and enacted die-ins in six locations around the town, astonishing and engaging both visitors and locals, many still recovering from the New Year’s Eve fireworks and fancy dress celebrations the night before. 

Leaflets were handed out and rebels mingled with onlookers to inform people about the climate emergency and how to join Extinction Rebellion.

Photo: Gavan Goulder

St Ives rebel Ann Nicol told the local press: “Only system change at the level of government is going to enable our younger generation to stay alive and that’s why we danced to the Bee Gees’ ‘Staying Alive’. It is an anthem of the growing Disco-bedience movement which is finding creative ways to educate people about the climate crisis and call for transformative government action.”

One of the locations was The Three Ferrets, a well-known town pub, where early afternoon regulars were bemused by the sudden noisy, colourful invasion. Rebels performed their synchronised moves around the pool table and right up to the bar. The regulars carried on drinking unphased when the rebels finished by all lying down ‘dead’ on the (smelly) floor.

Photo: Gavan Goulder

Stopping HS2 in its tracks

XR rebels supported the StopHS2 activists to prevent contractors from working on key rural construction sites in the Denham area which would destroy precious woodlands and wildlife habitats. The HS2 project is being hailed by the state and corporate sponsors as a vital part of the UK carbon reduction strategy. The reality is far from it, read more on the failed case for HS2 here.

If HS2 is not stopped, it will: destroy over 100 ancient woodlands, 693 wildlife sites, be a massive source of carbon emissions for the next 120 years, serve the wealthy, yet drain over £100 billion of taxpayers contributions, link up aviation expansion plans across the country, and poison an aquifer which provides 3.2 million with water.​

Joe Rukin of StopHS2 said: “This mass action was a greater success than we ever planned for. Just the threat of having hundreds of people coming to stop HS2 cut down trees on Boris Johnson’s doorstep was enough for HS2 to cancel the planned closure of Harvil Road.”

Rebels gave vital support to the StopHS2 group, who have camped at the site for over two years to stop this destruction of our natural world.

The proposed sites will house a large electrical substation that is key to the HS2 project. XR responded to the callout from StopHS2 with rebels establishing camp and locking on in the field, that is due to be cleared for the substation.

Brave rebel still holding site on Tuesday. Photo: Josephine

Another site was retaken earlier on Saturday afternoon with rebels taking away a fence that was illegally blocking a public footpath. This woodland site had been held by rebels in the previous week with several rebels taking to the trees to block felling works. They had been fenced in to restrict access, food and water supplies to the rebels.

XR rebels took to the trees to stop felling operations. Photo:Barry Blizzard This weekend’s HS2 block was a HUGE SUCCESS! But it’s not over yet. Support from rebels and Affinity Groups is needed again for the weekend of Jan 31 – Feb 3​, sign up for a shift​.  Join us to stop an environmental catastrophe​​ occurring on our own doorstep.​

XR content

Humans of XR

Tarek, at the COP25 in Madrid

“I was born in Berlin and lived there for nine years. Then I moved to Rügen, it’s a little island on top of Germany. I helped organize a demonstration there when I was 11! 

My mum saw FFF in the newspaper and she joked like ‘yeah we could do a demonstration here’ and I found it to be a very, very good idea. 

I had a partner to help me organize things. We printed leaflets. My partner knew the writer of the newspaper so we had an article. We had a WhatsApp group where everybody could join and we could talk about what we were gonna do. 

The march has many more people than we expected. We were 150 people; it was very cool.

On Rügen, the whole place was in flames because it was so dry. It was the first time in 30 years and seven fields were alight in one year. No houses were affected, that was good. But yeah, it was very crazy, we drove past and whole fields were in flames.

The politicians are being too slow. But I also want them to think before they do things – it’s not intelligent to throw money around and then in 50 years not be able to do anything because the world will be nothing anymore.”

We are receiving amazing human stories and we want to know yours. To read more – or to write your own – join our Facebook group.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. There’s so much exciting stuff going on in the movement 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 xr-uknewsletter@protonmail.com

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. 

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