Rebel Daily 7: Breaking bad things
September 03, 2021 by Extinction Rebellion
Windows, bail conditions, systems, laws. If it’s bad, we love to break it!
It’s been another couple of smashing days of rebellion, with lots still going on into days 10 and 11.
Rebels have been standing up and calling out criminal inaction on the climate and ecological crisis in the City of London. With so much money and power concentrated in one square mile, we’re occupying that space to demand that the rich and powerful lift a finger (indeed, all their fingers) to avert the worst catastrophes heading our way. As we well know, everything is at stake.
We have continued to see exceptional courage on the streets: a group of eight women echoed the suffragettes’ actions by smashing windows to raise maybe a literal alarm at JP Morgan, the world’s most ecocidal bank. Stop HS2 activists scaled a big glass building to protest HS2’s insurance company. And at least 50 rebels broke their bail conditions – risking yet another stint in a police cell – to exercise their right to gather and protest outside the Bank of England. Let’s remember who the real criminals are.
Over by the seat of power in Parliament Square, a squad of Greenwash busters turned up to draw attention to the hypocrisy of concealing ecocidal activities under a thin veneer of caring for the planet. Fake net-zero claims, shady sponsorship deals, and unverified carbon offsetting: we’re not falling for it. The serial greenwashers must be exposed for the damage they continue to do to a planet that is not theirs to kill.
‘The brave ancestors of tomorrow’
On top of all this, affinity groups and local groups have been moving like water, swarming like insects, flyposting like… flies. The self-organised beautiful chaos put a spanner in the City of London’s business as usual, armed with a map of the City’s biggest fossil fuel funders. Together, rebels handed out over 5000 leaflets and stickers to passersby and pollinated hundreds of conversations.
As we head into the last days of this Impossible Rebellion, we already have so much to be proud of and grateful for. As one speaker outside the Bank of England put it: ‘You are the brave ancestors of tomorrow.’
Women take a chisel to a bank
1 SEPT | JP Morgan, City of London
Eight women showed up at JP Morgan first thing on Wednesday morning to let the bank know exactly what they thought of its planet-destroying activities. With hammers of care in their hands and love of life in their hearts, they smashed the windows of the American bank. To make their reasons as clear as the glass they were chiselling, they slapped on pink stickers that said: ‘In case of climate emergency, smash glass’. After the act, the group sat in a circle to wait patiently for the police.
Breaking windows to make a political point is not a new idea. In March 1912, the Suffragettes carried out a whole window-smashing campaign in London. On the first day, when the signal was given, over 150 women smashed the windows of shops and offices in the West End using hammers and stones. Their point was that politicians cared more about broken windows than the lives of women. Today, these brave women break windows on behalf of Life and invite JP Morgan to care more about the future of all life on Earth than a broken window.
If there were awards for crimes against the planet, JP Morgan would win a giant trophy for the most money poured into fossil fuels. It has pumped over $317 BILLION into coal, oil and gas companies since the Paris Agreement came into force in 2016. We’re not fooled by its greenwashing, either.
City of London on trial
2 SEPT | Bank, London
On Thursday morning rebels gathered near the Tate Modern to learn a new song, and to ground the coming action in solemn intention. We are here on behalf of all Life. With that in mind, the crowd – now in the hundreds – marched through the City to Bank.
For this action there were no drums, no glue-ons or lock-ons, and no street-blocking structures. It was just us, putting our bodies on the line and sitting in the road. This was a powerful shift in energy from many other occupations of the Rebellion, and it allowed for a calm, rooted, vulnerable energy. It was not a show of power or resolve to disrupt for as long as possible. It was people in the street, singing and speaking with each other.
‘Arrested for trying to save the world’
It was especially poignant because over 50 rebels were breaking bail conditions just by being there. They wore suits, as if dressed for court, and bore signs like ‘Arrested for caring’ or ‘Arrested for trying to save the world’. But the evidence was stacking up against the City of London – the real ones on trial yesterday. The charges were read and the gap between their promises and their actions – or criminal inaction – became plain to see. You be the judge: exhibit A on climate; exhibit B on ecology.
The crowd learned more about the City of London, a powerful and wealthy corporation that is exempt from many UK rules. We heard that the square mile of the City is the only place in the UK that the Queen has to ask permission before visiting. And that there is a figure in the House of Commons called the City Remembrancer whose main job is to sit opposite the Speaker and ensure that the government doesn’t make any laws that would interfere with the City’s goals.
Make no mistake, the City of London is a small but incredibly powerful player. Its carbon footprint is almost double that of the actual UK! As a key financial capital in the world, it has a long history of funding immoral pursuits: it was the core financier of the transatlantic slave trade, has helped cement the economic model that protects the wealthy, and continues to finance projects that are killing our planet and all the life on it. The City must be held to account.
Who you gonna call? Greenwash Busters!
On Wednesday, hundreds convened in Parliament Square to call attention to government greenwashing. Informative even by our rebellion’s high standards, this action featured banners and placards spelling out both the idea and practice of greenwashing (together with a healthy dose of playful imagery, including the inimitable greenwash-busters and a giant box of ‘greenwashing powder’).
‘We need to urgently end our reliance on fossil fuels’
As Greta Thunberg took pains to make clear recently, greenwashing is the new hallmark of international responses to climate change. And, if our proud nation is world-leading at anything, it’s this. We’ve been promised no more government investment in overseas fossil fuel projects, and are getting a (blood-soaked) £750 million gas export terminal in Mozambique. Our energy minister dutifully declares “we need to urgently end our reliance on fossil fuels”. Yet the government channels our money into “mind-boggling” investments in fossil fuels. (Read the full charge-sheets here and here.)
The greenwashing parade continued, past the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, before terminating in Trafalgar Square. We hope to say the same of greenwashing itself one day.
In all the whirl and excitement of our many actions, not everybody will have found the time to drop in on the Regen Hubs. But though they might have been a quiet presence, these hubs embodied a truly vital aspect of our movement.
The primary hub – due to its size and centralness – was St Ethelburgas on Bishopsgate. The street outside is the epitome of London’s blaring Business as Usual: a flurry of taxis and bikes and hurried-looking suited people. Looming skyscrapers obscure most of the sky. But step across the threshold and you’re in another world.
The enclosed garden has proven ideal for rebels to sit and relax in: sometimes talking, sometimes eating, sometimes doing nothing at all. Past the garden is the welcome desk: one of this full-hearted rebellion’s many beating hearts. Here you’ll find the schedule of the day’s events (all kinds of trainings and a swathe of regenerative offerings), a stock of flyers and other materials, and – most impressive of all – generally supportive, helpful people.
The help given has ranged from general how-to-get-involved reception through to directions to actions (not everyone has smartphones!) through to post-police station welfare support. Just as often, though, the help could be a friendly welcome and a gesture to the right, where rebels could find tea and coffee, free food for lunch, and possibly this part of London’s only free-to-access toilet.
A place of trust and support
This impossible community in the shadow of London’s iniquitous city has been the site of more beautiful encounters and stories than we could get through in a whole week of issues. Examples include a curious visitor-turned-regular from the nearby Gherkin, the spontaneous emergence of daily Tibetan gong-bath sessions, an Omen-esque incursion and expulsion of police, and at least one unspeakably beautiful listening circle, where total strangers reached a place of trust and support that would need to be lived to be believed.
And this was only one of three hubs! They might not have been front and centre, but with these places, we have kept alive some of XR’s most powerful magic. Here’s to the hubs!
Stop Insuring HS2!
Two rebels made a daring climb up a building to hang their demand: Marsh Insurance, Ditch HS2. Marsh JLT Specialty is insuring the high-cost, high-speed train line and is therefore complicit in the irreparable damage the project is causing to the British countryside.
On the plus side, Marsh JLT did agree to meet with rebels from HS2 Rebellion, so the climbers agreed to come down.
As our time in the Blackheath camp starts to draw to a close, we want to thank all of the volunteers who managed the camp, the local residents who have supported us with fresh food and supplies, and all the rebels who called the camp home for a brief time. Together, we’ve created a safe and positive space to stay this Rebellion.
The camp has been a base for our community to connect and prepare for the actions each day. There’s been the opportunity to connect with old and new friends, coming together to support one another through the highs and challenges of the past two weeks.
Despite the efforts of the police, the camp has been a home for our rebels through this Impossible Rebellion: thank you to everyone who has made this possible.
Over the last week, Digital Rebels have been making hundreds of calls to the Bank of England every day, with one aim: to end the Bank of England’s investment in fossil fuels.
Our Digital Rebels handled themselves and their communication with humility, humanity, and care, as they were met with scripted responses, automated messaging and referrals to the bank’s website (which is useless as it doesn’t tell the truth!). However, they persisted. One member of the Bank of England staff said they’d had 50 similar conversations with our rebels – definitely persistent!
The rebels have been supporting each other with daily zoom calls, sharing experiences, tips and worries, and providing each other with emotional support.
Yesterday, the efforts of our Digital Rebels were supported by rebels on the street outside the Bank of England: pressuring them from inside and out. Today will be our last day of calling, with the specific aim to deliver a clear message: this is CODE RED for humanity. For the sake of our children, for those experiencing the terrible toll of climate change already, and for the future of humanity, our financial systems must change.
The tireless pressure we have applied this week on the Bank of England, and last week on Barclays was impossible to ignore. As the Impossible Rebellion approaches its final stretch, we celebrate the Digital Rebellion’s continued efforts to use our energy to create change in the sector that is the single largest financial contributor to the climate and ecological emergency.
March for Nature: Rebel for life!
4 SEPT | 13:00 | Meet Trafalgar Square
On the final day of this wave of Rebellion, UK rebels join together to stomp our feet for all we hold dear. For the animals, for our children, for the trees and the insects – for all life on this formidable blue planet.
Wear black, blue and green as we march for nature on Saturday.
Join us. We need everyone to raise their voice and stand up for what’s right. Let’s make this a wholehearted close to a wonderful two weeks together on the streets. More details and ideas here.
XR Legal wants your footage!
If you’ve witnessed police officers being violent towards rebels and you managed to catch it on camera, do get in touch with XR Legal at XRfirstname.lastname@example.org. The team is collecting videos of police misconduct for a legal case. Do pass on what you’ve seen so we can hold the police accountable for their actions.
Humans of XR
Chris Neill, 64, Godalming Town Councillor
“I’ve been worried about climate change for 30 years and I’ve never been able to understand why it wasn’t in the news headlines all the time. Now it often is, but action isn’t happening fast enough and we can already see climate breakdown happening around the world. I used to think the worst problems would have to be faced by future generations, now I think they will be here in my lifetime. I’m frightened and depressed about that but I’m determined to do what I can. I think Extinction Rebellion has been effective in helping people to wake up to the crisis.
I’m rebelling because I think it’s a moral and necessary thing to do.
We have to force governments and big business to change track quickly. I hope many more people will join us. Being part of Extinction Rebellion helps me too because it connects me to other people who feel like I do.”
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