Extinction Rebellion (XR) dumped tonnes of manure outside the offices of the Daily Mail, The Independent and The Evening Standard on Sunday.
The action was called to highlight the failure of the mainstream press to address the severity of the climate crisis. It was the climax of a weekend of protest for XR after activists from the group joined the anti-Tory People’s Assembly demonstration on Saturday.
The police raided an XR warehouse and an art centre on Friday ahead of the protests. It was filled with art materials, including the papier-mache heads of a number of the media tycoons. Twelve activists were arrested during these raids.
But despite the intimidation from the police, over 3,000 activists joined the Free the Press demonstration on Sunday.
Protesters gathered in Parliament Square at midday. Placards read, “Press silence is killing us,” “Four crooks control our news,” and, “The Sun... may contain hate”.
Amy is part of the XR group in Cheltenham. She told Socialist Worker that she was at the protest to “pressure the press into drawing more attention to the climate crisis.”
She added that she thinks that it’s unfair how climate activists are represented by the mainstream media. “Climate activists are well meaning, but we’re often presented as criminals in the papers, or as people that are disruptive for the sake of it,” Amy said.
Ben, who has recently got involved with XR, said that there is a complete “misrepresentation of the climate crisis in the mainstream media”. “I think the lies that the press tells about XR are scary,” he said.
“I think it actually legitimises some of the heavy-handiness a lot of our activists suffer at the hands of the police.”
The demonstration heard speeches from other movements and groups, including, Black Lives Matter and the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.
Liam, who spoke for XR, said, “After Friday it’s clear the powers that be want to see us divided. But we’ll stand united.”
He then led a chant, saying, “Rupert Murdoch we’re coming for you—guess what—we have more bamboo.”
It was a reference to how cops seized bamboo from XR’s warehouse, which the group have used to create barricade structures in the past.
Protesters swapped Rupert Murdoch for Priti Patel in the following chants.
Many of the speakers and marchers linked the call for a free press with the fight against the Tories' Police and Crime Bill.
Kyle said that it's no coincidence there is very little critique of the bill in the mainstream media. “I really think the press has had a real hand in legitimising the Tories' treatment of protesters,” he said.
And Annesha told Socialist Worker that it was clear why XR is still targeted by the press and the Tories. “XR are still a threat to the state,” she argued. “Why would they write the things they do about us or mention us in the Police and Crime Bill if it wasn't?"
The state is continuing attacks on XR. Socialists and trade unionists must join the mobilisations and actions organised by the climate group to hit back at the state’s intimidation of protesters.