The Summer of our Discontent
July 22, 2019 by Extinction Rebellion
Summer Uprising special
The boats are back!
In April, our beloved pink boat caused quite a stir in Oxford Circus. This time, rebels summoned not one but FIVE beautiful bright boats to sail us into the Summer Uprising in FIVE UK cities: Bristol, Leeds, London, Cardiff and Glasgow.
And what an Uprising it was!
Read on to get a flavour of how the Uprising played out in each city. The creative actions, stirring songs, fiery rebels, and particular messages gave this synchronised rebellion a life of its very own!
Sea levels are rising and so are we!
Last Monday, Bristol rebels took to the streets with this message to highlight how their city will experience extensive flooding unless the government and council Act Now to halt climate breakdown.
Rebels blockaded Bristol Bridge with a pink boat named ‘Jeanette Kawas’ after the Honduran activist murdered in 1995 for saving 400 species of fauna and flora from developers. A vibrant community was established around the boat, equipped with a Solutions Zone, training tent, kitchen, reading area, family area and campsite.
This occupation was followed by a second on College Green by the Youth on Tuesday. Billy Bragg led the procession to the site, where he sang and told them that ‘Extinction Rebellion is your miners’ strike’. Buoyed by these words, the Youth locked-on to a pink car parked in front of City Hall where, inside, Mayor Marvin Rees was announcing his belated plans to decarbonise – or trying to. Rebels planted in the public assembly interrupted the proceedings by stripping off their tops to reveal lettering on their chests that read ‘Act Now’.
On Wednesday, the disruption was escalated by rebels locked onto a pink bathtub blocking the M32. Back in the city centre, a delegation of rebels met with Mayor Rees who refused to withdraw his support of Bristol Airport expansion and admitted that he didn’t know how to lead on climate breakdown.
Meanwhile, back at the M32, police arrested 40 rebels, only for 24 to be ‘de-arrested’ on site. The action was effective but had a deep emotional impact on both the public and rebels and will be subject to a review and learning process.
One arrestee, Teo, said: ‘I engaged in this act, as a conscientious protector, in response to our government’s failure to act against the climate emergency, and their continued support of destructive corporate and political practices.
‘According to leading experts we are experiencing ecological and climate breakdown – we cannot solve a crisis unless we treat it as such. Hundreds of thousands of people are dying every year, an amount that is rapidly increasing.
‘To disengage from this would be to act against my conscience – I stand by my actions as a reasonable and proportionate response. I don’t wish to blame anyone, I am just doing what I can to protect myself, my friends, my family and everyone else with who we share the planet.’
Over 1000 rebels hopped on their bikes for Bristol’s biggest ever Critical Mass cycle ride. There was a party atmosphere as cyclists of all ages joined together to push their limits of disobedience in a fun and healthful way!
Thursday was a day for quiet reflection… and swarming the Ministry of Defence. Rebels disrupted the road leading into the Filton Abbey Wood site to protest the environmental damage caused by war, delaying 7000 military personnel on their morning commute.
As the protest came to a close on Friday, the focus shifted to looking forwards. The 16 arrestees from the M32 action pleaded not guilty at the Magistrate Court and a people’s assembly was held with representatives from the police – the first of its kind. Not long afterwards, the West of England Combined Authority announced a climate emergency.
The Uprising closed with a multi-faith ceremony and rebels waved
their pink boat off to safe harbour, ready to be called upon for
Bristol’s next voyage.
In Leeds, a bright yellow boat sailed its way up to Victoria Bridge, laying its anchor down in the middle of the city for the week. It sailed in peace in the spirit of Mia Mascarinas-Green, an environmental lawyer from the Philippines, who was brutally shot two years ago in front of her three children for bringing environmental crimes to light.
The Philippines is one of the most dangerous places in the world to speak out about environmental crimes. Over 100 environmental rights protectors have been killed there in the last 15 years. Rebels in Leeds stood in solidarity with Mia and hundreds of activists who risk their lives every day to stop the destruction of our planet for profit.
Rebels also shone a spotlight on the role of Leeds’ financial sector in facilitating investments in fracking, coal and other polluting technologies. Nathan, 19, explained: ‘We need to act now but individuals can only do so much. It is essential that institutions like banks play their part by divesting from fossil fuels and investing in solutions to the climate crisis.’
On Tuesday, Olympic gold-medal-winning canoeist Etienne Stott (seen above being hugged by a giant sloth) turned up to show his support and lift morale at the campsite for the next two days.
On Thursday, rebels marched through Leeds and held a die-in at Briggate, one of the city’s busiest pedestrian shopping zones, to draw attention to the ongoing 6th mass extinction.
Linda shared her motivations for joining the Uprising: ‘I’m a 62-year-old working grandmother. I don’t normally choose to spend my time protesting on the street. The truth is that my generation has known about the climate breakdown for decades and we’ve failed to act quickly enough. I owe it to future generations to do all I can now to force governments to bring about system change, and persuade everyone to Act Now before it’s too late.’
After five days of peaceful protest, rebels packed down their campsite, returning the space to the usual flow of grey traffic, and the bright yellow Mia Mascarinas-Green sailed off to new horizons. The rebels didn’t leave until the bridge was clean and spotless.
Do you have a minute to support these brave rebels? Sign this petition calling on the University of Leeds to declare a Climate Emergency. For updates from XR Leeds, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
The Summer Uprising was a beautiful example of the incredible and growing support XR has in the capital. Environmental veterans, fresh-faced campaigners, indigenous Amazonian activists fuelled London’s week of action, along with thousands more from every walk of life. The solidarity with local causes across London was striking, as well as the pressure to make Ecocide law.
Base camp near Waterloo was dynamic and lively all week. A melting pot of international activists camped out for the week, enthusiastically sharing ideas and comradery. Hundreds visited for training, inspirational speeches, and people’s assemblies. Many fast friendships formed, and commitment to the cause deepened.
Monday kicked off with the blue boat ‘Polly Higgins’ (named after the Scottish visionary, barrister and author who passed away in April) berthing outside the Royal Courts of Justice. From this platform, electrifying speeches and music set the stage for four more days of action.
Tuesday saw six arrests at the Bow Concrete Plant at an action motivated by the plant’s incompatibility with the city’s air pollution goals. Later on, the Waterloo Camp was abuzz with training, activities, and planning actions.
A critical mass bike ride and ‘swarms’ were the focus on Wednesday. Several swarms were held at the Waterloo site with great success and cooperation from the police. Rebels cycled from Waterloo Millennium Green to Hammersmith town hall, meeting with swarmers along the way. Much to the delight of the rebel peloton, Hammersmith Council voted unanimously to declare a climate emergency immediately afterwards.
Thursday was action-packed. Almost 100 rebels staged a die-in outside the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to protest destructive and anti-democratic plans to build a new Edmonton Incinerator. This action came out of a workshop on Tuesday. On the way back to camp, protestors spontaneously voted to swarm Parliament Square, Westminster Bridge and Waterloo.
Hundreds of rebels then staged a die-in outside City Hall to declare a tax rebellion and call on Londoners to withhold a percentage of their council tax in protest. The Mayor of London was held to account for failing to take action, despite his declaration of a climate and ecological emergency earlier this year. Projects like the Edmonton Incinerator, the Silvertown Tunnel and the Tideway Tunnel have no place in a time of crisis.
Concurrently, rebels hung banners off the side of Tower Bridge by hand which they pulled off without incident or arrests despite a strong police presence.
The final day saw rebels in solidarity with Bermondsey mothers, protesting the horrific impact of the Thames Tideway Tunnel as incredible amounts of concrete began to be poured. The morning saw an enormous police presence, indicating the importance of the site.
A dramatic ‘Media, Tell the Truth’ requiem action took place outside Northcliffe House, home of the Daily Mail and other newspapers, complete with skeletons, live baroque performance, lilies, eulogies and speeches about those already dying in the climate crisis, and a mass die-in.
Later on, a more upbeat march on Parliament merged with #FridaysForFuture school strikers. The energy was palpable and infectious, as drums and chanting spurred on the widespread enthusiasm. At Parliament Square, two arrests were made in questionable circumstances, yet thankfully much support was on hand.
After the clean-up, the Waterloo site was given 100% compliance with environmental standards – a testament to rebels’ conscientious conduct. The streets are electric with love and rage: real change feels closer than ever. The tides of our movement are rising.
On Monday, a brilliant green boat reading ‘Gwrthryfel yr Haf: Act Now’ made its debut on the streets of Cardiff, dropping anchor in the middle of Castle Street, a key road into the city centre.
The boat was named ‘Margoth Escobar’, after the Ecuadorian environmentalist and Amazonian indigenous rights defender. Margoth survived an arson attack on her home last year.
The mood in Cardiff was festive and family-friendly, with plenty of flag-waving, poetry-reading, hula-hooping and musical performances mixed into the outreach and serious message of the protest.
The rebels held their roadblock for three days, causing some impressive disruption to the city centre and bringing traffic to a standstill for streets around. Emergency services were admitted and every effort was made to cooperate with the police to keep everyone safe.
The initial march featured canaries that dropped to the floor one by one. Sombre percussion instruments kept time and urged the slow, rhythmic advance, a death march symbolising our walk towards extinction.
Rousing speeches were heard from many, including a Sudanese human rights lawyer who spoke about the lack of legal protection for people displaced by the climate crisis, Welsh Assembly Members Mick Antoniw, Delyth Jewell and Adam Price, climate scientists and other campaigners who supported the need for urgent action.
On Wednesday, the rebels gathered to discuss and decide when to pack up and process over to City Hall for the closing action. Of course, this would only happen after the obligatory mass clean-up was finished on the main site. A minute’s silence was agreed, too, to hold in mind people around the world who are already suffering the effects of the climate crisis and for those who continue fighting for climate justice in the face of oppressive regimes.
The boat made its way out buoyed on a sea of voices, as the crowd joined together to sing a beautiful, stirring song in full harmony. This short video of the moment is very moving and well worth a watch!
Rob, father and XR organiser, said: ‘It’s a bit like a parallel universe, going back to reality. It’s really nice when we come together, but it’s quite challenging when you go back to reality afterward.’
XR Cymru published this letter addressed to Cardiff explaining the reasons for the disruption.
Welsh rebels show zero signs of slowing down, as Northern rebels took to their bikes on Saturday to highlight their country’s car-centred transport infrastructure in an action in Bangor.
Llongyfarchiadau, XR Cymru!
The city of Glasgow hosted the Scottish Summer Uprising, and the focal point of this glorious day of protest was a 25ft purple boat moored in a busy intersection of the city centre.
The day started with a game of cat and mouse between police and rebels over where the secret protest site would actually be. A small group of rebels swarmed a decoy location to attract some of the police vans and ensure the boat had a clear path to Trongate, the boat’s true destination.
The location tied in with the theme of the Glasgow protest, which was justice for climate refugees. Trongate is an old part of the city, built on the profits of colonial trade and slavery. The message on the boat’s hull read ’The Future You Fear Is Already Here’, showing solidarity with people in the global south who are being displaced right now by the ecological crisis. The boat was named ‘Amal Gous’ after a Sudanese activist who was killed in June during the pro-democracy protests in Khartoum.
With the traffic blocked, the tarpaulin off, the wheels locked, the mast raised, and a motley crew of arrestables locked on, the uprising could properly begin. Phones across Scotland pinged with the location of where the boat had finally docked. Over 200 rebels responded to this siren call, some hailing from as far afield as Cumbria, others from the highlands and islands of the far north.
There was face-painting and chalk-drawing with the Wee Rebellion (XR Families Scotland). There was live Scottish hip-hop and a samba band. There was ceilidh dancing and T-shirt printing, and talks on both climate and refugee issues, including the local scandal involving Serco evicting hundreds of asylum seekers from Glasgow. The day was a perfect mix of protest, performance, learning and fun, and the atmosphere was happy and festive throughout.
The fine weather and the fact that it was a public holiday meant that there was a steady stream of curious onlookers ready to receive leaflets on a carbon-zero economy. While there was a big police presence, relations remained friendly throughout, with no arrests on the day and liaison officers even facilitating a negotiation to ensure a 9pm finish with no rebel vehicles seized.
As night fell, Glasgow’s purple boat sailed off unimpeded, ready to return to port when another action calls.
Thank you for reading, and thank you to all the superstar rebels who took part in this enormous collective effort. We see you and are so proud to stand alongside you and fight for climate justice!
As we enter this crucial phase in human history, our Rebellion will need money to make sure our message is heard. Anything you can give is appreciated.
(If you were forwarded this, you can sign up for the XR newsletter here)