UK Newsletter 15: This system is Toxic - Extinction Rebellion UK

UK Newsletter 15: This system is Toxic

Dear rebels,

We have been following this new wave of police violence and protests with heavy hearts. Racism and oppression are toxic symptoms of a poisoned system: they can have no place in the world we need to build.

As we write this newsletter, our hearts are with all those mourning in memory of George Floyd and of so many others, and those protesting for systemic change.

The right to protest is a fundamental democratic right. The right to stand on a street without fear of harassment and violence is more fundamental still.

We must defend these rights – we must do better.


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Action Highlights

Change is Now  

30 May | UK-wide

Photos: Vania Flaccomio (first three), Anthony Jarman

On Saturday nearly 2000 rebels stood in silent, socially distanced protest for one hour outside 130 political sites across the UK. 

Rebels held signs to highlight the fork in the road society faces as it responds to two interconnected crises. They wore face masks, arrived alone or in pairs and were careful to stay at least 2m apart during the midday protests.

Despite these measures, police at Parliament Square arrested 8 rebels. 

Victoria Square, Birmingham. Photo: Vladimir Morozov

With both Covid-19 and the climate and ecological crisis, the government has trivialised the science and failed to prepare for the inevitable. 

These protests urged people to express their dissatisfaction with our political institutions and demand a Citizens Assembly to address both crises.

Sign up here to get involved in upcoming actions to call for a Citizen’s Assembly on the covid-19 recovery and climate crisis. 

Photo: Natasa Leoni

Stencilling a path to life-sustaining urban transport

 16-17 May | UK-wide

Motorists respecting the pop-up lane in Islington. Photo: XR Islington

On a sunny, mid-May weekend, rebels in dozens of locations across the UK reclaimed their streets, brightening them up with colourful pop-up cycling lanes of washable chalk spray.

Wherever possible, this was followed by socially-distanced bike rides, with a 100 cyclist-strong rally in Hackney and 30-strong in Exeter.

Travel restrictions and empty roads during lockdown have prompted a boom in cycling, new plans for car-free zones in our capital and promises of significantly increased funding for local councils to improve cycling infrastructure.

But, with local authorities facing delays in accessing promised funds and tight deadlines, rebels lent a helping hand.

Yet, the government has also announced a massive £27bn road building scheme. With transport already the largest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the UK, this investment would increase our dependency on fossil fuelled transport. 

We need to continue building our zero carbon alternative. Start your own pop-up cycle action, find more ideas to reclaim your streets here and support this crowdfunder for a legal challenge to the government’s road building plan.

Photo: XR Staines

No Going Back Sundays

Ongoing from 3 MAY | UK-wide

Photo: Kiss Photography

First there were 5 on a cliff in St.Ives. Then they were joined by dozens in other parts of Cornwall and beyond. In the fifth consecutive week, many hundreds were participating all over the UK.

Making their placards, then standing for an hour each Sunday from 10am, silent, masked, socially distanced, holding their messages for our future.

This is what one of the original 5 protestors has written: “Making and holding a sign seems such an insignificant action in the midst of a global pandemic and climate crisis. But it turns out it is a powerful thing to do. Because it’s about more than written words. It’s about believing in something enough to stand up and be counted. Even if there’s no one looking.

“Maybe this will make us identify the space in every town and village where we can stand alone or together. Where we can speak truth to power and find others willing to do the same.”

For some the experience is solitary and meditational. For others it is about being part of a group and a community. Satya, who stood with her dogs by a road in Malvern on 24 May, posted:

“Just spent a happy hour holding up my placard at the side of the road. Two middle fingers, two violent revvings, quite a few stony faces, and more than a hundred smiles, waves and thumbs-up – from a wide variety of people. We all have one thing in common – we want the government to make the changes necessary to keep our planet from burning.”

HS2 – Great Britain in 2020. Is this what democracy looks like? 

30 May | Along HS2 route

NET employees block access to a public footpath

A private security company, National Eviction Team (NET), has been hired by HS2 Ltd to patrol the public byways bordering the HS2 construction sites and evict protesters from public lands.

NET employees have frequently used violence and intimidation tactics against the peaceful protestors, and local police have turned a blind eye. 

One protestor was placed in a choke hold until he blacked out. Another bled profusely after being repeatedly hit across the head. Another had their life endangered when a NET employee tried to evict them from a tree without the use of a safety harness.

NET “policeman” drags a protestor along the ground

In addition to the violence, both NET and HS2 Ltd employees have repeatedly ignored the Covid-19 safety guidelines on social distancing and protective masks.

Please take the time to watch this video to see the truth about HS2 sites. Join this march from 20-27th June along the HS2 route.


BBC, Act like Our Planet Matters

Ongoing | Online

We need an economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis that prioritises people and planet. The BBC says ‘Our Planet Matters’, but where is the discussion on the news?

Tell the BBC to cover a green economic recovery instead of a return to ‘business as usual’. Submit comments and complaints via the BBC. Share on social media with the hashtags #EmergencyOurPlanetMatters #NoGoingBack #BBC4CEE, or on our Facebook page.

Stop Leeds Bradford Airport Expansion

04-16 JUN | Online

Leeds Bradford Airport is seeking permission to expand from 4 million to 7 million passengers by 2030, despite Leeds and Bradford Councils declaring climate emergencies. 

You can object to the proposal via this link, ‘search planning applications using public access’ and use ref 20/02559/FU. Please fill in the registration page (ignore the council deadline). Find out more here.

Walk the Rebel Trail – Stop the Train

20-27 JUN | Birmingham – London

From 20 to 27 June we will march in relay from Birmingham to London along the first part of the HS2 route, carrying severed branches as a symbol of the ongoing ecocide. Distanced but united, we will be protesting against a government that does not listen to the people. 

Find out more here, including details of the route.

Change is Now

25 JUN | 12-1pm

On 25 June the Climate Change Committee is due to publish its annual report assessing the UK’s progress in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, or lack thereof. The CCC report is annually ignored by our Parliament, our Government and our Treasury.

On the day of the report, we will take action alongside young people demanding that they are protected, demanding that the government listens to the science and chooses to act now. Save the date and find out more here

XR Universities Visioning Day

27 JUN | 11am-8pm | Online

XR Universities is hosting a day of workshops, discussions and creative visioning to imagine the future of higher education. There will be 3 different sessions starting at 11am with a final people’s assembly in the evening.

All students and young people with any kind of stake in the future of universities are welcome. More info and register here


Online De-Escalation and Nonviolence Workshops

The UK Embedding Nonviolence team are offering online interactive workshops looking at nonviolence (a core principle) & de-escalation (a critical skill) for actions. 

We are running workshops throughout June and July. For dates sign up here

How to Self-Organise: Learning Series

Rebels across the globe have created a self-organising learning series to empower us all to organise in an effective, collaborative and regenerative way.

This learning series consists of a range of interactive sessions. See the full course syllabus here, access learning materials here and register to attend upcoming sessions here.

The Week: Rebel Film Stories

Frederic Laloux is seeking rebel stories for a film. The project, called The Week, aims to catalyse collective action on the climate crisis by engaging people in a week of filmed content with aligned challenges and activities.

If you have awoken to the crisis, and your life has become richer and more meaningful then please get in touch using this form or volunteer to help here.

XR Educators People’s Assembly

If you have an interest in how XR can support the movement for educational reform and promote our 3 demands, then join our people’s assembly on 13 June. You don’t need to be a teacher or a student – education matters to us all and we want broad input to this process. 

Register here.

Feedback & Learning Roles

The Feedback and Learning Culture Circle works to enhance learning experience, so we can learn from our successes and failures. 

We are looking for an Internal Coordinator and a Content Curator. No specific background needed, but experience with video editing and 2D/3D animations would be helpful. Feel like you could help? Contact 

Letters to the Earth from School Children

Are you a teacher or a parent who is home schooling during lockdown? Letters to the Earth is collaborating with the Primary Science Teaching Trust to deliver a set of nature-focused cross-curricular activities for children.

Click here for nature-themed reading and writing activities and to involve your children in writing Letters to the Earth. Watch an example from 9 year old Heidi, from London. Submit your letters by 31 August here

Podcast Episode 12: ‘A Paradigm Shift’

In Episode 12 we are in conversation with Jeremy Lent about the patterns that shape human thinking and why we need a paradigm shift in our values if we’re going to tackle the climate crisis. Listen Now.

Must Reads


Thank you

Thank you so much for reading! Even in lock-down, 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 

We are in a crucial phase of human history, and our Rebellion needs money to make sure our message is heard. Anything you can give is appreciated. 

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