Socialist Worker

More protesters demand action on climate change after Extinction Rebellion blockades

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2652

The pausing ceremony in London last week

The 'pausing ceremony' in London last week (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The Extinction Rebellion (XR) series of protests and occupations is changing the landscape of British politics.

XR could be on the way to winning one of its key demands—for the government to declare a climate emergency.

Jeremy Corbyn announced he would force a vote on the issue in parliament this week (see right).

The XR rebellion saw four sites in central London blockaded for days alongside other, smaller, direct action stunts. Over 1,000 arrests were made during the programme of civil disobedience.

On Thursday of last week activists brought the occupation to a close with a “pausing ceremony” attended by up to 1,000 people.

It had a sombre, reflective and often spiritual atmosphere. But it was also an opportunity for participants to take stock of what they had achieved.

Protesters have forced the issue of action on climate change to the top of the political agenda.

One activist told Socialist Worker that XR’s action had been “an amazing achievement”.

“The message is getting through,” they said. “We’ve been talking to people about what’s going on. And people have said they may be inconvenienced by our action—but that we’re right.” 

Flurry

There’s been a flurry of activity in the last week, including a series of international die-ins last Saturday, initiated by XR Berlin.

In Birmingham, protesters held a “go-slow” protest by cycling around the city centre last Saturday. Around 60 people took part. Another 70 people attended an XR meeting in Norwich. In Manchester around 200 people gathered to debrief after the London actions. And over 130 activists joined an XR meeting in Leeds on Monday.

In Wandsworth, south London, there were over six times the number of people at a meeting on Monday compared to the group’s previous meeting.

Over 200 XR supporters joined a “funeral for our future” event in the centre of York last Saturday.

Protesters held a die-in at HSBC and put up posters of XR’s version

of the bank’s advertising campaign. They then moved to Barclays.

Activist Julie Forgan said, “In Barclays, the bank locked its doors and refused to let us in. A quick citizens’ assembly decided to blockade the bank until the manager came out.”

Around 300 people attended Bristol XR’s weekly meeting—the largest attendance yet. And up to

500 activists flooded the Cabot Circus shopping centre on Saturday.

There’s big potential to build a movement. And it has to be built deeper into the labour and trade union movement. XR has shown the potential for the kind of action that could take place when Donald Trump visits Britain in June.

Thanks to everyone who sent local XR reports

Frackers under pressure

Government-appointed “fracking tsar”—and former Labour MP—Natascha Engel has resigned, after just six months.

Engel said the Tories were “pandering” to anti-fracking campaigners, who, she claimed, “were driving policy”.

The resignation comes after a failure to roll out the industry in Lancashire after the initial fracking at the Preston New Road site prompted a string of earthquakes.

Fossil fuel firms are getting increasingly frustrated at regulations—that they helped develop—which mean fracking must be paused following an earth tremor.

Activists are keeping the pressure on the fracking bosses, and were set to protest at the Tour de Yorkshire cycle race.

The race, which was set to start in Doncaster on Thursday of this week, will mark the debut of Team Ineos—rebranded from Team Sky after fossil fuel boss Jim Ratcliffe’s firm became the sponsor.

Thousands of protesters wearing Ratcliffe masks were set to line the route.


Labour pushes for vote by MPs

Labour said it would push for a vote in the Commons on whether to call a “climate emergency” on Wednesday of this week.

Jeremy Corbyn said the climate movement was a “massive and necessary wake-up call” to demand “rapid and dramatic action”.

A protest was called to demand “declare a climate emergency now” during the vote. It is supported by Momentum, Youth Strike 4 Climate, Labour for a Green New Deal and People & Planet.


XR members in Euro elections

Nine members of Extinction Rebellion are standing in the European elections under the name “Climate Emergency Independents”.

The group is standing seven candidates in London and two in South West England. But candidates weren’t chosen after full discussion. Nobody should appoint themselves as the face of the movement.


Celebrations as trees are saved

Activists were celebrating in west London after preventing trees in the Colne Valley nature reserve near Uxbridge from being chopped down for HS2 railway construction.

Plans to begin destruction were shelved as 12 environmental activists scaled the trees on Saturday of last week and stayed there for ten hours.

They are fighting to preserve an environment that hosts bats, owls and ospreys.


All out against Trump in June

Around 70 people attended a meeting hosted by the Campaign Against Climate Change (CaCC) in London on Thursday of last week.

It brought together speakers from Extinction Rebellion, Labour for a Green New Deal, the CaCC Trade Union Group and others.

Several trade unionists discussed the call for a climate general strike.

Liz from Camden Unison union spoke about the need to involve climate activists in organising for protests against Donald Trump’s visit in June.

 


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