The weeks of 15th – 25th April saw environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion shut down areas of Central London as part of a ten-day protest in the capital. Let’s look back at what happened.
Extinction Rebellion describe themselves as “an international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience to achieve radical change in order to minimise the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse.”
Their three core demands are for the government to tell the truth about “how deadly our situation is”, for carbon net zero to be achieved by 2025, and for a Citizens’ Assembly to be established in order to “oversee the changes, as we rise from the wreckage, creating a democracy fit for purpose.” Their principles focus on non-violence, autonomy, decentralisation, and creating a culture that is “healthy, resilient and adaptable.”
Demonstrations began on Monday 15th April
After Extinction Rebellion called for a “full-scale Rebellion to demand decisive action from governments on the environmental crisis” on their website. “This is not a one-off march,” they declared. “We will keep going for as long as we have to, shutting down cities day after day until our demands are met.”
At 6pm on the 15th, protestors blocked roads at Marble Arch, then moved onto Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge, Piccadilly Circus, and Parliament Square, some of the busiest areas of Central London for tourists and locals alike.
Relations between police and protestors were a cause of debate throughout the action.
On 16th April
Extinction Rebellion tweeted: “Most police are reasonable people. Some are idiots. No different to the rest of society. We hope that the police will soon join with the rebellion, either passively or actively, in a move that would force the government to the negotiating table.” Later in the week, a video was uploaded to Twitter of protestors waiting to be arrested on Waterloo Bridge chanting, “Police, we love you, we are doing this for your children, too.”
On 23rd April
16-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg gave a speech to MPs; she was invited to Parliament after inspiring the worldwide school climate strikes movement. In her speech, she said that “this ongoing irresponsible behaviour will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind.” Thunberg also spoke at the Extinction Rebellion protests.
On 24th April
On 25th April
Several protestors blocked the entrance to the London Stock Exchange by glueing themselves to the walls and each other. Elsewhere in London’s financial district, a group of four people climbed onto a DLR train at Canary Wharf and held up banners with slogans such as “business as usual = death” and “don’t jail the Canaries”.
One protestor glued themselves to a carriage of the train. Meanwhile, temporary roadblocks were set up at Bank and Southwark Bridge and more protests took place on Fleet Street outside the headquarters of Goldman Sachs bank. More than one thousand activists were arrested between the 15th and the 25th. 69 people had been charged as of 23rd April.
A closing ceremony for the protests was held at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park on the afternoon of Thursday 25th April. Extinction Rebellion said it was time for its members to “go back to their communities,” but that the public could “expect more action very soon.”
And indeed, the next day, Extinction Rebellion protestors further north took part in a ‘slow cycle ride’. An estimated 70 cyclists, plus others on foot, travelled across the Tyne Bridge from Newcastle Central Station for a rally in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear. Annie Highfield, from Extinction Rebellion North East, said: “We are bringing things north because it’s an issue for everyone, not just those in London.”
Further north, on 27th April
‘Extinction Rebellion Scotland said approximately 300 people‘ took part in a ‘die in’ protest at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Protestors lay on the ground of the main hall next to a skeleton copy of a diplodocus, holding signs saying “are we next?” The protest was organised by Wee Rebellion, a climate change protest group for young people in Glasgow that is associated with Extinction Rebellion.
Since the protests, the British Government has voted to acknowledge a climate crisis, becoming the first country in the world to do so. Details of what this means and the changes that are to be made are still to be announced.