Socialist Worker

Extinction Rebellion day six - fighting on despite 715 arrests

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2651

The boat that police eventually cleared from Oxford Circus

The Berta Caceres boat that police eventually cleared from Oxford Circus (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The rebellion for climate justice continues despite rising police violence.

About 715 climate change rebels have been arrested for taking part in the International Rebellion against climate change inaction.

The cops said that as of 10am on Saturday, 28 of these have been charged.

London has been gripped by thousands of activists taking part in four occupations across the city, accompanied by smaller direct action stunts

Organised by civil disobedience group Extinction Rebellion (XR) the protest camps have drawn together climate change activists, students, those in the wider labour movement and large numbers of people who are determined to see urgent climate action.

A trade union delegation organised by Campaign against Climate Change visited the Marble Arch and Oxford Circus occupations on Friday.

Campaign chair Suzanne Jeffery celebrated the “resilience and organisation” of rebels and said it was “hugely inspiring to see the movement make such an impact”.

“Climate change is a class issue” she added. “The poorest in society will benefit most from action on climate change.

The XR group, which launched last October, has said over 50,000 new rebels have signed up since the protests began.

Rebels

It wants the government and media to tell the truth about climate and ecological chaos, to decarbonise the economy by 2025 and to hold assemblies of ordinary people to oversee the changes.

On Friday—the fifth day of protests—police started to become more heavy-handed with activists.

Footage shared on social media saw cops pick people up by their wrists and drag them across the street.

Another video showed cops push a black woman—a passerby—to the ground.

Police spent hours confiscating the Berta Caceres—the pink speed boat parked in Oxford Circus—that evening.

Hundreds of activists remained in the space for almost another full day and defiantly chanted “we are the boat”.

Global

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who sparked the global school strikes movement, is set to visit the occupation on Sunday.

This will be followed by a ticketed event hosted by the Guardian newspaper and a visit to the parliament on Tuesday.

XR Youth travelled to Heathrow Airport, west London on Friday to stage an action where they held a banner asking “are we the last generation?”

While surrounded by a heavy police presence they sang “power to the people, people have the power”.

London has been the centre of activity in Britain, but there has been a global response to the call-out from XR. The group reports actions in 33 other countries.

In Oslo, Norway, activists dropped a banner declaring “the generation who will shut down Norwegian oil production have been born—it’s us”.

Trade unionists visited the occupations on Thursday

Trade unionists visited the occupations on Thursday (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Kampala, Uganda saw XR activists hold an educational on organic agriculture alongside a local choir performance.

Sixty two people were arrested in New York for blocking the Brooklyn Bridge with a die-in, while two activists climbed lampposts to drop a banner demanding “declare climate emergency”.

XR Ireland reports that around 2,000 attended the “day of rebellion” in Dublin.

A “funeral for the future” march was held in Copenhagen, Denmark, which finished in a sit-down outside the parliament.

Back in Britain, by Saturday afternoon—the sixth day of occupation—three of the four XR sites remained in the hands of protesters but police looked ready to move activists off Waterloo Bridge.

Despite the threat of police violence at any point, activists have been busy planning an Easter weekend full of political activity.

A picnic is planned on the Westway road to highlight pollution on Monday while activists are planning an Easter feast at Marble Arch on Sunday.

Stand Up To Racism and Campaign Against Climate Change have called a "Solidarity with XR, climate refugees welcome here" event at 5pm on Monday at Marble Arch.

XR’s events are a real success, defying the pessimism that “nothing can be done” or that “people are too passive and apathetic” about climate change.

By breaking from the methods and expectations of mainstream politics they have shown the potential to create an even more effective and radical challenge to capitalist priorities that bring climate chaos and threaten us all.

 


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