Socialist Worker

International Rebellion day two - defiance and debates ignite the climate movement

by Sarah Bates and Nick Clark
Issue No. 2675

Tents take over Whitehall as the rebellion enters its second day

Tents take over Whitehall as the rebellion enters its second day (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The Extinction Rebellion (XR) rising in London at the start of this week was defiant, determined and a huge boost to the climate movement.

All those who took part have shamed the do-nothing politicians and the profit-grabbing corporations.

The actions triggered wide debates. One is over whether the movement can involve wider groups of people. XR rebels stressed that ­everyone needs to be involved.

Protester James wore a hi-vis jacket emblazoned with the legend, “Bricklayer—not a hippy.”

“You hear in the media about XR that says they’re a lot of smelly ­hippies,” he said.

“There are a lot of teachers, poets and artists here but not many ‘old fashioned’ working class people. So that’s why I chose to say I was a bricklayer.”

In addition to the larger protest camps, there were also smaller ones in the streets of Westminster.

A camp outside the Home Office hosted a question and answer session with climate scientists.

It gave deep insight into the far reaching effects of climate change—but also the nature of the system that causes it.

One person asked whether it was a problem that the media often frame climate change as a question of simply reducing carbon emissions—“as just a numbers game”.

A scientist replied that simply focusing on limiting emissions suggests that “we can achieve what needs to be done within the system we have now. That is not the case.

“I don’t think a nicer, more smiley version of capitalism can save us. We need to stop the pursuit of profit—and pursue survival.”

Rebels hope to hold their protest spaces in London for two weeks, or until their three demands are met.

These are that the government “tells the truth” by declaring a climate emergency, acts now to cut emissions and that the fight over climate change be “beyond politics”.

With hundreds of police on the streets, there is no knowing how long activists will be able to resist.

Their occupation should be a focus for all those wanting to fight back against a system that destroys our planet and pollutes our world.


Voices from the rebellion - ‘It’s raising awareness’

“My spirits are high. I’m feeling a real sense of solidarity among the rebels.

“People are putting themselves in uncomfortable situations. When it was raining last night there was so much solidarity for the people locked on—and people cheered for them when they were taken away.”

Ben


“We know the police are not going to be as sensitive as they were in April. But they’re polite.

“We’re all together. I’ve never felt more love for these people.”

David Williams, ex-farmer from Wales


“We’re all pretty positive. People have been willing to get arrested.

“We’re taking up a lot of resources, which is part of the process for putting pressure on the state.

“In terms of raising awareness, it’s doing the job.

“In the last thirty years, the current political and economic system has done nothing to solve climate change.

“This is the only way to get the change we need.”

John, from Liverpool


“I’m here because of the scale of the potential crisis and the fact that not enough is being done about it to make a difference.

We held a citizens’ assembly, which gave us an opportunity to talk about how we’re feeling. It’s a good system for deciding the next steps.

“The climate crisis isn’t short term enough for politicians to put at the top of their list. Although it’s immediate, it doesn’t fit their schemes.”

Emily


“I slept overnight in the camp. It was a bit lumpy and a bit bumpy, but a lovely atmosphere.

“I just feel like I’ve got to do this. I would say to anyone thinking of joining the rebellion—‘Just do it, come and experience it.’

“I really believe in what we’re doing.”

Kate


XR Youth discusses global justice

XR Youth activists gathered in St James’s Park on Tuesday for a day themed around migrant justice.

Activists discussed the links between climate justice and the way indigenous people have been driven from their land and robbed of their cultures.

Climate change will force hundreds of millions of people to become refugees.

There has to be a fight both against climate change and for welcoming everyone who is forced to flee from it.

One activist said, “You can’t separate the way that migrants have been treated from the way that governments ignore the global picture.

“War and racism and climate change are all interconnected.

“It’s great to be at a gathering where it’s possible to bring these together.”

XR Youth says it is united by “an urge to stand up and say no to this toxic system. Not unemployed hippies, not Etonians.

“Normal people. That’s what makes us so powerful.”

It has other events planned, including a mass action at the Department for Education.

This will demand that schools, colleges and universities reveal the truth about climate change rather than ignoring or covering it up.

“Liberated education means education that motivates people to action over climate change,” said one activist.

Welcoming refugees is one of the themes at the Stand Up To Racism conference in London on Saturday 19 October. For details go to bit.ly/SUTR2019

Media won’t tell the truth

Right wing newspapers scoured social media to find people who opposed the protests. Several reported that a cancer patient was delayed getting to hospital because protesters blocked roads.

The Sun quoted an “NHS worker” who said, “The protest is effectively risking lives.”

The Daily Mail claimed a delivery driver faced losing pay after being forced to abandon his vehicle when he was caught in the road blockades.

In July, the media leapt on the case of a man in Bristol who couldn’t see his dying father in hospital after climate protesters blocked a road.

But the papers only seem to care about ordinary people being inconvenienced when they can pin the blame on other ordinary people.

These same papers back the Tories, whose cuts, privatisation and attacks on benefits pose a much bigger danger.

Their real agenda is to undermine support for the protests and to protect “business as usual”.

Many of those affected by the protests supported the actions.

“I was on my way to an appointment at St Thomas’ Hospital opposite parliament when I came across the XR blockade on Westminster Bridge,” one patient told Socialist Worker. “Blocking the bridge meant I couldn’t take the bus to the entrance.

“But far from being angry about it, I beamed with pride as I crossed the river on foot. How great it is to see people fighting back, I thought.”


Upcoming events in the rebellion

Shutdown City Airport - Thursday 10 October–Saturday 12 October

XR will occupy the departures lounge of City Airport in east London for three days, in what it is saying will be the biggest mass action of the rebellion.

Assemble at the airport 9am. Go to bit.ly/XRcityairport

Student assembly - Friday 11 October

A mass meeting will be held at the Global Justice site hosted by XR Universities. 5pm-7pm, St James’s Park (The Birdcage Walk side). Go to bit.ly/XR19x

Trade unionists join the rebellion - Saturday 12 October

A rally inviting workers and trade unions to raise the alarm about the climate crisis, before joining the Extinction March.

There will also be a bloc representing the climate strike. Assemble at Trafalgar Square at 12.30pm Go to bit.ly/xrtradeunion

Extinction March - Saturday 12 October

A funeral procession throughout the streets of London to highlight the mass extinctions caused by the climate emergency.

Participants are encouraged to wear black, white and pink. Assembly point to be confirmed, 2pm. Go to bit.ly/extinctionmarch

 

 


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