Hundreds of people turned their despair at the burning of the Amazonian rainforest in to fury at Brazil’s government and big agribusiness on Friday.
Protesters gathered outside the Brazilian embassy in central London, and after a noisy and colourful rally blocked the road.
After several hours, activists announced plans to occupy the road until 7pm.
Fleurie told Socialist Worker the images of the rainforest in flames were “eye-wateringly heartbreaking”.
“All my friends have been posting about it on Instagram,” she said. “It’s good that we’re talking about it but I’m worried people will think talking is enough. I want to start doing things as well as talking—this is my first protest, it certainly won’t be the last, and I’ll bring more people next time.”
The crowd chanted “Climate justice!” and “Bolsonaro has got to go!”, in reference to Brazil’s far right president Jair Bolsonaro. Activists and families with chalk covered the pavement with slogans and drawings.
Many protesters waved Extinction Rebellion (XR) flags, in the group’s first protest since the conviction of activists this week over its International Rebellion.
Some held signs in Portuguese, and an XR ultimatum to the Brazilian government. Others, such as language teacher Hannah White and her daughter Evie, a Manchester University student, carried colourful home-made placards.
“When Notre Dame was burning, all these billionaires came out of the woodwork to rebuild it,” said Hannah. “So when Bolsonaro says Brazil can’t afford to put out the fires it’s bullshit. He wants the fires, to clear the way for cattle ranches.”
Evie agreed, “These people are burning the rainforest that we all need, taking it from the people who live there—and for money. That’s the injustice of capitalism.”
The meat industry rightly came in for criticism, with flags based on the silhouette of a cow and slogans highlighting the industry’s role in deforestation.
For a large section of protesters, the solution was promoting a vegan diet. Actor and activist Heidi said, “Agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation. Eating meat is not a ‘personal choice’ if it has an impact on the planet.”
But designer Attilio emphasised, “The source of the problem is policy, and you can only change policy with political action.
"You have to recognise that the biggest interests in Brazil are multinational corporations and a government so rotten it fired the head of its space institute just for telling the truth. And in the end you have to confront that system.”