Extinction Rebellion (XR) will be holding protests across the country this weekend to demand urgent action from the government to address the climate emergency.
The climate emergency protest group will be blocking roads in cities such as London, Cardiff, Manchester and Bristol and occupying other areas across the Bank Holiday weekend.
On Tuesday (1 September), groups will block the roads towards Parliament to call on MPs to back a climate and ecological emergency bill and to set up a national citizens’ assembly on the climate emergency.
Parliament has already launched a Climate Assembly, though this gathered public opinion on the government’s climate policies as opposed to being focused specifically on the climate emergency.
The rebellion is timed to coincide with the return to Parliament and will last for two weeks, with simultaneous rebellions held in Cardiff and Manchester.
Aside from blocking roads, XR groups will be staging sit-ins, banner drops and marches across the country.
In Bristol, a lifesize has blocked traffic on Prince Street Bridge – though cyclists and pedestrians can still cross – while protestors have disrupted traffic on the Clifton Suspension Bridge, leading the council and police to close the bridge. Other groups will be lighting beacons across the country to draw attention to the climate emergency, and plans to stage a “mad hatter’s tea party” at Gatwick to protest the aviation industry’s contribution to the climate emergency.
Though protests will be focused on London, events will be taking place across the country. A spokesperson for the Peterborough, Stamford and Bourne XR group said: “We are a geographical distribution of people who want to protest and will continue to do so as long as the government continues to place profit over the planet. At a local level we are a decentralised organisation, meaning any rebel or group of rebels, however they come together, are free to act, as long as it's within the principles of XR. We also have a coordinated approach that is helping to show the government we are collaborating and communicating and working together, and we will rise together.”
Lockdown has been difficult for XR groups given the movement’s reliance on disruptive actions to bring attention to the climate emergency. A previous rebellion planned for April was cancelled at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, so a return to the streets – albeit a socially distanced one – has been welcomed.
“It has been really good to be out DOING things again,” said Jennifer Stevenson, a member of the Bristol XR media team. “In fact that's exactly what one of our most committed, reliable rebels, Ro, commented this morning: "Isn't it good to be out on the streets again?"
“It's one of the most important ways we aim to drive change – by protesting, by showing our numbers, by being bold and imaginative – and disruptive. And it's a big part of what brings us together and builds our numbers.”
“It has also been very strange. Doing ironic elbow-bumps when we meet up, wearing our various and hilarious face masks, standing socially distanced.”
With the public being warned by councils and police to stay away from this weekend’s actions and next week’s rebellion due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, XR is very aware of the need for utmost safety during its rebellion, but it also wants to cut through the focus on Covid to remind of the need to tackle the climate emergency.
“In general we feel hyper-aware of Covid safety,” added Stevenson. “Rebels have been hugely involved with community support during lockdown. Many are still socially isolating. Covid is the big issue the mainstream media seems to want to focus on. It's a major challenge to get past that to talk about something vitally important but not particularly sexy: the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill which XR has been working hard on behind the scenes, in coalition with other climate activist groups, scientists and policy-makers. We need to build the public support to get it introduced into parliament and pushed up the legislative agenda and voted in. A big job of work that's been going on behind the scenes.