Socialist Worker

Extinction Rebellion day three - ‘We refuse to be intimidated and we’re not going away’

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2651

Simon Assaf being arrested in London on Tuesday

Simon Assaf being arrested in London on Tuesday (Pic: Socialist Worker)


The International Rebellion against climate change entered its third day on Wednesday.

Organised by civil disobedience group Extinction Rebellion (XR), the global revolt has seen protests, direct action—and arrests.

London has been a focal point as thousands have taken part in occupations, blockades, a protest camp and smaller scale actions.

On Wednesday morning activists attached themselves to a DLR train at Canary Wharf in the heart of the financial district.

Later four people glued themselves to a fence outside Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s house.

They said they were “all Jeremy Corbyn supporters” and he was "the best hope this country has got” to meet the challenges of the climate crisis.

They added that they were there to “support him” to go further.

Corbyn declined to meet the protesters, who later abandoned their action saying Labour had agreed to meet XR next week.

Activists in London have been occupying Parliament Square, Marble Arch, Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge since Monday morning.

Cops tried to remove protesters from Waterloo Bridge each night, but activists have resisted and maintained their presence. So far police have made around 300 arrests.

On Tuesday night, cops tried to clear the occupation at Oxford Circus by issuing legal restrictions at the carnival-like party that was taking place.

Hundreds danced while police wandered through the crowd telling protesters to leave and picking people out at random to arrest.

Simon Assaf, a Socialist Worker supporter, was one of those arrested and carried through cheering crowds of XR activists.

“Cops made it clear they were trying to intimidate people,” Simon told Socialist Worker. “We made a decision to refuse to be intimidated, went right into the middle and started dancing.

“The police just started picking on people—they chose me, they chose another from our group.”

Protesters in Edinburgh blocking North Bridge

Protesters in Edinburgh blocking North Bridge


Released from the police station a few hours later, Simon was charged under the Public Order Act 1986.

Simon is part of the Hackney “affinity group”—small groups of activists who organise together—a key organisational structure within XR.

Outstanding

He said the size and strength of the International Rebellion has “completely blown my mind. It’s an outstanding level of organisation—you get a sense of how things could be.”

And like many others out on road blockades through central London, Simon has been inspired by other movements around the world.

“For me, it’s the footage of Sudan,” he said.

“Here it’s nothing like the size or the scale of that. But you get a sense that you have to stay on the streets because it’s what you have to do.”

In Edinburgh two days of action have seen around 700 people block North Bridge for five hours, bringing large parts of the city to a standstill.

Maggie Kelly is a member of XR in Scotland and felt “very relieved and excited” to be part of the festival and North Bridge action.

“We organised the festival because we wanted to raise awareness of XR’s demands without fear of arrest,” she told Socialist Worker. “We had lots of difference spaces, training and talks on what climate change solutions might be.

The occupation at North Bridge saw a key transport route in the city blocked for five hours.

“There was a discussion about disrupting members of the general public. But the issue is, for 30 years or more, they’ve been trying to press for change through normal channels and it's not working” said Maggie.

XR is calling for the government to implement policy that will mean a zero carbon Britain by 2025, and to implement citizens assemblies to oversee a just transition.

Its third central demand is for the truth to be told about climate change.

Counterweight

“We feel there’s not enough debate, information and educative process in place to provide some sort of counterweight too current political debate” said Maggie.

“We need to keep up the pressure” she added. “We’re not going away, and this isn’t the end of it”.

Protesters played music and entertained crowds with juggling, music and drumming. Around 30 XR supporters were arrested for obstruction.

This followed a Festival of Climate Reality which included XR talks about the climate crisis, including a version in Gaelic.

In New Zealand activists held a dawn vigil on a beach. In Denmark, blood was poured over the steps of the parliament in a demonstration called “this is the blood of our children”.

At The Hague in the Netherlands, XR supporters occupied the International Criminal Court with a banner calling for action against “ecocide”.

Activists marched on a beach in Mexico arguing that they would use direct non-violent action “so that neither governments nor markets can ignore the problem anymore”.

The protests, and occupations in central London, are set to continue unless the government agrees to negotiations.

They will need support from the wider left and labour movement to continue in the face of government intransigence and hostility from the police.

For updates follow @ExtinctionR and #ExtinctionRebellion on Twitter

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