Extinction Rebellion activists have held Waterloo Bridge in Central London for a second day (on Tuesday 16 April), as part of an international wave of protests calling for action on climate change. Photos by Steve Eason and Katherine Hearst.
The climate activist group Extinction Rebellion has called a week of action in cities across the world. The group has three central demands.
Firstly: ‘Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.’
Protesters blocked the road by Marble Arch and set up stage to declare an emergency.
Meanwhile, another group blocked the centre of the junction of Oxford Street and Regent Street, near to the BBC HQ at Portland Place, while a youth march led to an occupation of Piccadilly Circus.
Secondly: ‘Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.’
People blocking Waterloo Bridge brought plants to create a ‘garden bridge’. There was also lots of dancing.
Activists also drew attention to the ultimate responsibility of companies such as Shell for climate chaos. Graffiti reading ‘SHELL KNEW’ alluded to the company’s long awareness of the consequences of its activities.
Extinction Rebellion have been quite explicit that getting arrested is part of their strategy. As of 12:09 BST on Tuesday 16 April, the Metropolitan Police were reporting 209 arrests.
However, many have raised serious concerns about a deliberate strategy of courting arrest, and have emphasised that the risks of arrest and imprisonment are much greater for some people, and that BAME are already disproportionately targeted by the police and criminal justice system.
Thirdly: ‘Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.’
While the official XR publicity talks about a ‘Citizens’ Assembly’, the assemblies that formed on Parliament Square referred to themselves as ‘people’s assemblies’. After all, not everyone is a citizen, and many migrants have moved home indirectly or directly as a result of climate change.
Colin Revolting describes the atmosphere:
There was a real feeling of celebration by people who had been campaigning around climate for some time finding they are in a growing movement. It was participatory and energised.
It felt like the Occupy St Paul’s protests with the same mix of potential, and questions about how to effect the change that is essential.
Many of the break-out groups emphasised the importance of building solidarity globally, and in particular with front-line defenders, and those feeling the effects of climate chaos most directly. Some raised questions about how this solidarity could be made more practical, or how the movement could be made more diverse.
There have also been other actions around the world, such as in Portugal, where activists invaded a live broadcast on the news and current affairs channel CMTV.