Socialist Worker

Activists take to the streets in Northern Rebellion

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2670

The samba band entertained rebels

The samba band entertained rebels (Pic: Socialist Worker)


The climate emergency was brought to life in central Manchester this weekend as activists from Extinction Rebellion (XR) mounted a four-day occupation.

Hundreds of rebels staged a “Northern Rebellion” on Deansgate, a main thoroughfare of the city.

A marquee held workshops to plan future activity, while a “Rebel school” hosted talks and training.

Speeches were made from a yellow boat—last seen during an occupation of Leeds city centre in August—bearing the slogan “planet before profit”

Stand Up to Racism was collecting aid nside a rescueboat for refugees.

Empowering

Ben, a student has never been involved in political activity before, but since joining XR in February has been out on the streets and has found the experience “really empowering”.

He spent the day blasting soul music from a sound system and leafleting passersby. Ben told Socialist Worker that the occupation was a good platform to talk about XR’s three core demands.

These are for governments to tell the truth about climate change, for action now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025, and for a new sort of participatory politics to plan the future.

“We’re making people aware via disruption—we need to make the government actually interested in climate change,” said Ben.

Fourteen year old Hannah talked about her experiences as a climate striker from the main stage on a truck.

“For me, this is about raising my voice. It’s so easy to feel unimportant and irrelevant but together we are raising our voices and feeling empowered.

“I have never been to an XR event before, but I feel sure I’m acknowledged and relevant,” she said.

At a workshop on organising trade unions and XR, workers discussed plans for the upcoming 20 September strikes and how to deepen involvement from workers within climate activism.

Magda Sachs, co-chair of Salford Unison, told Socialist Worker that it was “really vital” for trade unionists to get involved. Activists in Salford Unison are preparing to take workers to a central Manchester rally during the walkout.

“But we want to see this as an ongoing issue in our union structures,” argues Magda.

“The branch has passed a resolution asking headteachers not to penalise students for the school strike, we’ve passed a motion about the Green New Deal and we’ve set up an environment committee.”

Barriers

A workshop on XR and young people saw members of XR Youth—activists aged 24 and under—grapple with barriers to activism facing young activists.

Many spoke about pressures from family members and patronising attitudes from older activists as some of the difficulties they had faced.

The occupation swelled when hundreds of people marched to it from a nearby demonstration against Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament.

Elinor, a member of the Liberal Democrats, joined the XR action after being part of the anti-Johnson protest.

“I’m really interested in XR but I’ve never been before. This is like a festival though, and makes me want to be more involved.

“It makes you realise that not every space has to be a market or a shop,” she said.

Protesters camped overnight, and planned to be there until Monday, when they will finish the occupation with a direct action stunt.

With children participating in arts and crafts and families eating picnics on straw hay bales, the atmosphere was more village fete than violent insurrection.

But there is no doubt that rebels are preparing for 7 October, where thousands of activists will descend on London for the next rebellion.

It’s likely to see climate chaos thrust to the top of the news agenda again, and the streets filled with debates about how to change the world.

With the Autumn Rebellion billed as a “movement of movements”, every socialist should be ready to take to the streets in October to be a part of it.

 


Suspended sentences for four anti-fracking activists

The battle against fracking hit a critical point this week, as three anti-fracking activists appeared in Manchester Civil Justice Centre for sentencing.

Katrina Lawrie, Christopher Wilson and Lee Walsh were found in contempt of court in June for breaking an injunction. The injunction prevented protests outside Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site.

The judge imposed a four week prison sentence suspended for two years on three of the campaigners and a two month sentence suspended for two years imposed on the other campaigner.

Before sentencing, the activists’ legal team argued the terms of the injunction should be changed to make it less restrictive.


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