The march, held in collaboration with Parents 4 Future, was Extinction Rebellion’s first of many national protests this year where it aims to work together with wider movements for change.
Margaret from North London was marching behind a banner saying, “Enough lying, enough denying, enough crying, enough dying”. She told Socialist Worker, “I am furious that the government is spending over £100 billion on HS2, a project that is the opposite of public transport for ordinary people. And it will cause huge ecological damage. That’s one reason I am marching.
“But the individual decisions made at the top of society are not the only focus. The real problem is much deeper. We are heading for disaster, even more in poorer countries, and society heads towards oblivion with hardly a murmur.”
The march represented something of a change in tactics for XR.
The group said, “ A deviation from our nonviolent direct action approach, the march will act as a more inclusive pathway for new people not yet ready to participate in civil disobedience.”
That approach did attract fresh forces. Martha Johnson from West London said, “I have an NHS job that I am not prepared to lose and I was always worried about the consequences of getting arrested on an XR event. Today I know that it is going to be possible to protest without being arrested.
“I really care about the environment, and I am scared about the future for all of us. We need to find ways to change what’s happening.”
Other marchers were not so sure. Speaking at the end of the day in Parliament Square, Sally Greene told Socialist Worker, “It was a good day and felt like a response to what has happened recently in Australia and many other places. But to be honest the people digging up a college lawn in Cambridge will probably get a lot more publicity.
“I have always thought that what was different about XR is that it doesn’t just march about. We need days like this, but we will also need many more days where we upset the authorities and disrupt the day to day life of the business as usual that is so destructive.”
Last week Extinction Rebellion UK launched its new strategy for 2020, outlining plans to bring 1 million more people into the movement by the end of the year.
One of the key strategic aims is to “Grow our connection to, and understanding of, wider movements for change.”
The march was designed to act as a launchpad for the new strategy, calling on allied movements for change to join XR in a show of "collaborative strength".
Monika Neilson, march organiser and XR activist, said, “We know we can’t do this alone and that Extinction Rebellion are a small part of a much larger, powerful climate movement.”
XR plans "rolling rebellion" from 23 May. The group says, "Our massive impact in 2019 shows nonviolent civil disobedience is an essential part of how we bring about radical change.
"As part of a wider international mobilisation, instead of blocking London’s streets for two weeks, we will take action in waves."
The urgency of the climate emergency demands serious resistance. XR, the school strikes and workers' action in the workplace all need to be part of that.