Central London is set to become a flashpoint of resistance over the climate crisis as activists prepare to stage the next Extinction Rebellion (XR) occupation. Thousands of rebels could descend on London for eight days from this Saturday. They have vowed to take the fight to the doorsteps of those responsible for climate and ecological chaos.
Activists disrupted seven oil facilities on Sunday. At Kingsbury, Midlands and Esso terminals in Birmingham people sitting in the road prevented oil tankers from leaving. At Thames Oilport in Essex, 17 people climbed or locked onto a tanker to stop it. More than 30 people camped outside Buncefield oil terminal in Hertfordshire overnight. In the early hours of Sunday morning, 12 activists gained access to the site and entered the facility. Police have now arrested over 200 people during the actions.
XR spokesperson Andrew Smith said, “XR are building pressure on fossil companies and then on 9 April we’re going en masse to take our message to the government—end fossil fuels now.”
Rebels aren’t expecting to block central London streets for days-long occupations, as in previous actions. It’s likely rebels will camp elsewhere and protest throughout the capital each day.
Andrew promised “more mass participation style events. We want to create the space where people can come and join. There’s an open invite for people to come and take part in these actions.”
XR called the demand to end fossil fuels “the obvious first step to tackling the climate and ecological crisis”. “We are living through a rapidly closing window of opportunity to do anything meaningful and we all know that those with power are committing us to global breakdown.”
Sally, an XR facilitator from York said its right to take to the streets after the pandemic interrupted the group’s plans for further protests. “We haven’t had anything like this for two years—it’s massively important that we do get out there and say ‘XR still exists, and we’re still active’.” “It’s now or never—Cop26 was a failure, as we predicted it would be. It was all a load of greenwashing by the government, and we saw it inspire protests around the world. We need to build on the energy of that,” she said.
The government is pushing through the Police, Crimes and Sentencing Bill into legislation now. It will make it easier to arrest protesters and harass groups such as Extinction Rebellion.
As it stands, a central method of XR is to facilitate mass arrests in a ploy to grab media attention and overwhelm the custodial and legal system. But, Sally says, in her local group the pool of people willing to be considered “arrestable” is getting smaller. “Some people aren’t as keen—the police tactics have got harsher, sentencing has got harsher. A lot of people were arrestable, but they’ve been arrested so many times. If it happens again, it can be quite bad for them. The mood feels quite different now.”
Past rebellions have been tens of thousands strong and created critical opportunities to raise the alarm about the climate emergency. Whatever the reaction of the police to rebels this time or the specific tactics of activists, it is important that as many people as possible join the rebellion.
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