The threat of climate catastrophe and ecological breakdown drew tens of thousands of people out onto the streets of London on Saturday.
March organisers Extinction Rebellion (XR) said 30,000 people marched—with the front of the demonstration reaching the end shortly after the last rebels left the starting point.
The “grief march” was organised by Extinction Rebellion (XR) to “share grief for what has been lost already, and for the loss that is to come.”
Yet it was far from a sombre occasion. Many people were drawn onto it because XR’s International Rebellion—occupations across central London that began on Monday—has offered an opportunity to change the future.
Margaret told Socialist Worker that she was on the streets because, “It seems this is the only way we can get our voices heard it seems—everything else I’ve tried.
“I’ve written to my MP, I’ve petitioned, I’ve joined various organisations and yet we’ve still got to this position where we’ve only got ten years to avoid everything getting really out of control.”
The “red brigade” theatrical group led the march, followed by a mock funeral procession, with many activists wearing black and some carrying coffins.
Rebels carried placards, or models or puppets of extinct animals or species threatened with extinction.
“We’ve got to be out here because no one is taking any notice,” said Jo. “The media aren’t reporting it and the government aren’t doing anything.
“The next step is to think if our tactics need to be a bit different and think about what demands are next.”
The march brought together those who had never been on a political demonstration and seasoned activists.
It was filled with the homemade placards, colourful banners, animal costumes, hula hoops and everything that could normally be expected at a XR action.
Alison said it “felt amazing” to take part in the demonstration.
“I can’t believe how many people are here. The smaller direct actions are important but it’s good to come together as well.”
An urgent need for action ran through the demonstration, with many rebels wielding placards pointing out the emergency of the climate crisis.
Sean said he was “terrified” because “time is running out.”
“We should be doing this sort of thing every week,” he said.
A hundreds-strong group of trade unionists who had rallied in Trafalgar Square joined the demonstration.
Banners from the UCU, PCS, Unite, NUJ, NEU and Unison union branches were there, along with many trades councils.
Addressing the trade union rally, Ben from XR said, “Trade unions have been instrumental in driving reform—XR needs you.”
He also that the cops actions’ during the rebellion were “a clear sign that our government is more interested in peaceful protest than tackling climate breakdown.”
Police have made some 1,300 arrests since Monday, and forcefully cleared away occupations.
Clara Palliard from the PCS called on activists to “not just lobby and protest, but to take direct action like XR.”
Trade unionists from across industries and unions spoke about how XR and a global climate strike last September had shaped debates about climate change in their workplaces.
Ian Hodson, president of the Bfawu union said, “What’s been going on this week has been unbelievable to see.
“We have to understand—there are no jobs on a dead planet. Every single trade union needs to get involved with XR, not later—now.”
While braving the rain on Oxford Street, Margaret said the size and spirit of the demonstration “gives you hope”.
“You can sit at home and think ‘oh my god there’s nothing I can do’ but then when you come here, you realise there are people who care the same way you do,” she said.
“I feel that, whether what I do makes a difference or not at least I’ve done something—I’d rather do something than nothing at all.