Socialist Worker

Extinction Rebellion lockdown of London begins

by Sarah Bates, Nick Clark and Gabby Thorpe
Issue No. 2650

Blocking the road at Marble Arch

Blocking the road at Marble Arch (Pic: Jon Woods)


Thousands of activists have taken to the streets of central London to fight for climate justice. Organised by non-violent direct action group Extinction Rebellion (XR), it saw people block roads at five different sites across the city.

It’s part of an “International Rebellion” of coordinated global action.

Protesters are calling on the government to tell the truth about climate change, decarbonise the economy and set up “citizens’ assemblies” where ordinary people can oversee the process.

Ashley joined the blockade on Park Lane holding a placard which said, “The power of the people is greater than the people in power”.

“It’s time to make an impact and bring the government to the negotiating table” he said.

He said the rebellion was due to “lock down London", causing a major problem for the police.

Amy had travelled from Cambridge dressed as a bee to take part in the protest. “Some species have gone extinct which has an instant relationship to the cycle of life.

“They are important to every meal we eat—they pollinate the food we eat and they’re a symbol of the planet’s fertility,” she said.

The rebellion comes after action by school students last Friday to demand urgent action on climate change.

Inspiration

Protester and Unison union member Jon wants those in the trade union movement to “take inspiration from the school students. We really need a situation where workers come out with students,” he said.

“People talk about the anti-union laws, but we need the school students’ spirit of resistance in the trade union movement as well.”

At Marble Arch roads were blocked off in every direction, causing traffic disruption at one of London's major traffic junctions.

A huge inflatable elephant declared “ecocide” while a drumming circle took place under the shadow of the arches.

Hundreds of people occupied Oxford Circus, blocking four lanes of traffic in central London.

Activists began gathering from 9am, boosted by a large contingent who arrived from Wales.

Then at 11am a truck arrived towing a large object under a tarpaulin. As activists glued their hands onto the trailer, the cover was removed to reveal a large pink boat with the words "Tell The Truth" painted along one side.

XR groups with banners stood at each entrance to the crossroads, as hundreds more sat down in the road.

It was a relaxed atmosphere. Some activists set up a DJ rig on the boat, others organised a kitchen.

There was a placard saying, “The power of the people is greater than the people in power”.

Around 1,500 people gathered at Parliament Square. Speakers pushed for the idea of citizens’ forums and assemblies to force the government to limit the damage done to the environment before it’s too late.

Elliot, a student, said “I find the demonstration uplifting. It’s good to see people waking up to the problem of climate change and I’m confident it’ll get bigger throughout the day.”

A people’s forum on the square was set to continue throughout the afternoon.

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Waterloo Bridge was transformed into a garden blockade with hundreds of trees and thousands of crowdsourced pot plants.

Children played on hay bales, and a picnic area on astroturf was set up. Around 15 different workshops were held on the bridge with speeches on the stage.

A drumming crew and choir contributed to a real festival atmosphere while yurts were constructed.

Ashley said the disruption was about “getting people to notice”.

“We need to change—and XR is trying to bring people together. I’ve spent 35 years being an enviromentalist and this is the biggest opportunity, biggest possibility and biggest hope I’ve ever seen.”

The protests continue. For details go here

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