Socialist Worker

Extinction Rebellion day four - new rebels join London climate occupations

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2651

Extinction Rebellion protesters are defying police to stage occupations in central London

Extinction Rebellion protesters are defying police to stage occupations in central London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The International Rebellion over climate change swept into its fourth day on Thursday.

Called by non-violent direct action group Extinction Rebellion (XR), it has seen action in scores of countries.

For four days, central London has seen occupations at four sites—Parliament Square, Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge and Marble Arch.

A delegation of climate rebels from Scotland arrived on Thursday morning to support the occupation at Parliament Square. They brought lots of blue XR signs - and bagpipes.

Police have apparently targeted activists at random on Waterloo Bridge for three consecutive nights, and have arrested several legal observers.

Thousands of protesters have managed to occupy the spaces partly by having big numbers, and also by filling the streets with pieces of large infrastructure.

Other demonstrators are in trees or locked to the stages that are at the centre of some of the spaces.

In dramatic scenes on Wednesday night, hundreds of cops flooded into Parliament Square and dismantled two of the four roadblocks of tents and banners that helped keep traffic off the road.

But activists called in reinforcements from other sites and, by the early hours of Thursday morning, had re-established all existing roadblocks.

Ella from south London had stayed up part of the night to help occupy Waterloo Bridge. But despite a long night and cold temperatures they said the experience meant “it really feels like I’m part of something—this is so important”.

Ella has been taking to the streets since the age of 14 but said “this is making a difference, it’s unlike anything I’ve done before”.

Arrests

And Ella said the next step is “just about resisting—we’ve had some arrests but we need to keep going”.

Will is a member of the stewarding team at Parliament Square, and had travelled overnight by coach from Leeds to be part of the action.He told Socialist Worker that taking part was a hugely positive experience.

“I’m tentatively feeling hopeful,” he said. “I’m sick of the despair and the personal guilt every time get in a car. There are people here protesting that wouldn’t normally be on protests.

Protesters on Waterloo Bridge on Wednesday evening

Protesters on Waterloo Bridge on Wednesday evening (Pic: Guy Smallman)


“And that’s me too—I haven’t got involved in anything like this for years.”

Part of Will’s role is to hand out leaflets to passersby explaining what the XR occupation is all about.

“What we’re arguing for is system change—we know it’s going to come, but we need it to come earlier,” he said.

In the centre of the Oxford Circus junction there is a pink speedboat, named Berta Caceres after a murdered climate change activist.

The occupation there has become a huge party with activists dancing through police warnings and attempts to clear the space.

Cops enter the dancefloor in waves, and every few minutes an arrestee will be carried through the crowd to chants of, “We love you”.

Occupation

Tamara had come to Oxford Circus after hearing about XR’s occupation. “It’s bad the police are arresting people” she said.

“If the government wants to stop it they know what to do—they’re not looking at the bigger picture.”

As of 9.30am on Thursday morning the Met announced they had made 428 arrests—and that number is set to rise.

It’s rumoured the cops are forced to operate a “one in, one out” policy at police stations as their London cells are filled to capacity.

Reports are coming in of activists being released from police stations as far away as Sussex or Kent.

And three people who glued themselves to a train at Canary Wharf in east London could be in custody for a month after being denied bail.

The rebellion could swell as other activists join it over the Easter weekend. And trade unionists were set to visit the occupations later on Thursday to show solidarity.

The XR occupations represent a challenge to the status quo. Every activist who cares about the strength of our movement and the future of the planet should join them.


What are protesters demanding?

Extinction Rebellion activists have three main demands. They are:

  • Tell the truth - government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change
  • Act now - government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025
  • Beyond politics - government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens' Assembly on climate and ecological justice

For more details of the rebellion go here.


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