Socialist Worker

Celebrate the rebellion, and build the climate movement

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2677

Extinction Rebellion activists held a ‘closing ceremony’ in Trafalgar Square last week

Extinction Rebellion activists held a ‘closing ceremony’ in Trafalgar Square last week (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Two weeks of action by Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists has brought the issue of climate change onto the streets and into the headlines.

Rebels brought the fight for climate justice directly to the aviation industry, fossil fuel companies and government departments driving environmental catastrophe.

And the International Rebellion saw XR actions grow globally.

There were impressive occupations in Germany, the US and New Zealand, while many smaller initiatives took place in other countries for the first time.

It was a fantastic fortnight of resistance, where thousands of people came together to organise occupations and debate how to fight for a better world.

Police

The Metropolitan Police response was heavy-handed. The force issued a blanket ban on XR assembling in the capital on the seventh day of rebellion.

Some 1,832 people were arrested in London, with 154 charged so far.

Charges include failing to comply with Section 14 restrictions on protests, criminal damage and obstruction of a highway.

XR actions included a thousands-strong People’s Assembly in Trafalgar Square and the monster Grief March involving 30,000 people.

Activist Ben clambered up Big Ben to unfurl a banner and hundreds of rebels tried to shut down City Airport in East London.

Activists glued or locked themselves to buildings, roads, bathtubs, and trains.

The latest wave of action had a different feel to April’s International Rebellion.

The first International Rebellion was a runaway success—with XR emerging from it with a boosted membership, profile and bank balance.

Last Thursday’s Canning Town action—where activists climbed onto a Tube train roof and were attacked by passengers—has opened a rift in the organisation.

Questions

Some rebels are dismayed that the action went ahead despite large-scale opposition to it. It throws up questions about how decision-making is conducted within XR.

For instance, is a People’s Assembly a decision-making body or a listening exercise?

The role of organisational structures should be clarified, improved, and where possible, made more transparent.

And there needs to be serious discussion around whether specific methods should change in light of different police tactics.

Activists are grappling with how to make sure their movement draws in rebels from every section of society.

XR, alongside the school student strikes, have opened up new possibilities of resisting climate catastrophe.

October’s action showed the importance of being a rebel for life.


Strike on 29 November

Students are preparing for another international strike day for climate justice.

Friday 29 November is set to be the fourth global day of action, following three hugely successful days that involved millions of people.

Coordinating group Fridays for Future said strikes are already planned in 1,539 cities across 138 countries.

Figurehead Greta Thunberg struck alongside students in Edmonton, Canada on Friday last week

“Over 7.5 million people in 180 countries joined the climate strike,” said Thunberg. “We told world leaders to take action now.

“They didn’t listen. So we go on, every Friday.

“The next global climate strike is 29 November and we need everyone to join.”


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