Climate Rebellion takes hold of London

A peaceful protest

Two exciting things happened in London recently which have highlighted the urgency for action on climate change.

The first took began about a week before Easter and continued for about 10 days. Four busy intersections and landmarks of the city were taken over by ‘Extinction Rebellion’. During those days the protesters, in a united act of civil disobedience, defied repeated police attempts to remove them and caused widespread disruption.

Extinction Rebellion was founded in October last year and has acquired a substantial following. It has a set of principles which it expects all of its adherents to follow. It’s says of itself:
All are welcome who want to adhere to our principles and values (only some of which are quoted in this article due to restrictions of space):

  • We have a shared vision of change
  • Creating a world that is fit for generations to come. We set our mission on what is necessary.
  • We need a regenerative culture. Creating a culture which is healthy, resilient and adaptable.
  • We challenge ourselves and our toxic system leaving our comfort zones to take action for change.
  • We value reflecting and learning. Following a cycle of action, reflection, learning, and planning.
  • We welcome everyone and every part of everyone.
  • Working actively to create safer and more accessible spaces.
  • We avoid blaming and shaming. We live in a toxic system, but no one individual is to blame.
  • We are a non-violent network. Using non-violent strategy and tactics as the most effective way to bring about change.

Apart from the members themselves many others joined the demonstrations which took place at Marble Arch, Parliament Square, Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge. On Waterloo Bridge a camp was set up and trees in large tubs and flowers were brought on to the bridge. A festival atmosphere was evident as music was played, there was dancing, singing, yoga and general good humour.

Extinction Rebellion

Over 1000 people, who refused to move from the spaces they occupied on the road, were arrested but no resistance was offered as they were carried off. Very few were actually charged and most of those arrested returned to their places on the road. Sometimes it was difficult to move people though as groups had glued themselves together!!!

Among the demands of Extinction Rebellion was that a Climate Emergency be declared and a target for zero carbon emissions by 2025.

Finally, and much to the relief of the authorities, Extinction Rebellion announced that the rebellion would end on the evening of the next day, maintaining control of its agenda. When the protests ended the city returned to normal very quickly. Motorists delighted to have their roads back again. It had been nice to walk down Oxford street without a car in sight!

When Parliament reconvened a week later, after the Easter break, it declared a Climate Emergency.

The second exciting thing to happen in London was the Climate Strike which took place on 24th May. Several hundred young people went on strike and gathered first in Trafalgar Square to protest against climate change and later walked to Parliament Square.

Climate Strike

Many of the young people sat in groups on the grass there while a large group bounced and danced to music in another part of the square. The presence of the young people was very peaceful.
I got into conversation with one of the dozen police officers on duty in the Square on that occasion and his comment to me about what he witnessed was “It gives me hope.”
Sr Patricia Byrne

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