London is alive with Rebellion
October 08, 2019 by Extinction Rebellion
They may have pre-emptively taken away our infrastructure and cushions, they may have confiscated our tents and displays over a largely cold, overcast, and drizzly day, and they may have arrested over 270 of us, but tonight the police can still only look on as rebel sites circle the capital.
We built a bedded-in fortress around Westminster, the house of a government that is still not telling the truth about the urgency of the climate crisis, still not doing nearly enough to halt biodiversity loss or reduce greenhouse gases, and refuses to be led by Parliament, let alone by its people in a Citizen’s Assembly.
So we are back, reclaiming the city where this movement began, and we are bigger and stronger than ever, backed up by new friends doing similar actions in cities all across the globe. In London, two rebels got married on Westminster bridge, police confiscated a giant metal head and then struggled to drag it away, and the media were united in fascination by it all, with even the Daily Mail giving the protest a positive framing.
Below you can read first hand reports from stalwart rebels holding twelve sites across the capital, and get a full picture of day one in London’s October Rebellion. Read these rebels’ words, feel their courage and determination, and if you haven’t already, go and join them. And when you do, bring food, and tents, and any objects you can really. Especially cushions. The police have taken away our things you see, and we need some more. Check out our Rebellion Needs page to see how you can offer practical help right now.
And if you need a little bit more about just how good it feels to be back on the streets, pushing for climate justice, you should listen to this special podcast all about day one.
A selection of sites
Truth In Power
XR Scotland & XR Cumbria | Victoria Street, London
At around 9am, rebels blocked the entrance roads to the junction outside Westminster Abbey and the Government Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Police stopped the trailer with the stage 100m from the site but five rebels locked on and glued themselves to the vehicle so it couldn’t be moved. They were removed and arrested six hours later.
Another 400 rebels set up camp, despite the police removing infrastructure. 13 people were arrested throughout the day, and the atmosphere remained peaceful and calm with singing, speeches, workshops and people’s assemblies. Wegman Bennet from ‘Stand Up To Racism’ and ‘Love Music Hate Racism’ made an impassioned speech telling the truth on the severe impact that the fossil fuel industry has had on the climate, and currently causing millions to be displaced from their homes, while demanding that this movement must have anti-racism at its heart. There was an impromptu ceilidh with bagpipes outside Westminster.
We Are All Crew
XR Bristol, Wales, Rainbow, & Farmers | Marsham St. & Horseferry St., London
Day one started with taking the We Are All Crew (WAAC) site on Marsham Road outside the Home Office. Big Laura (a large blue lorry) arrived at 11:30am and four rebels instantly locked on, with another four rebels glued and locked on around. There has been a strong police presence surrounding the lorry all day, but only one arrest on the site. One rebel climbed on top of the lorry and has since erected a tent to further secure the position.
The main focus of the day was building a vibrant community site, featuring an impromptu climate scientist panel, a Peoples’ Assembly to decide ongoing plans for the day, and musical acts, including ‘Beans on Toast’. We Are All Crew also aims to be a fully Deaf accessible site, which was reflected by having British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters for each act.
John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, gave a supportive speech thanking rebels for everything they have done so far. He also highlighted that Labour’s decision to back a 2030 carbon neutral target was due to the movement’s ongoing political pressure. As of 8pm there are close to 200 tents on site, with many still to be erected. XR Farmers also contributed fruit and vegetables from their farms to help sustain rebels throughout the rebellion, which will be cooked up in rebel kitchens on site.
Site 8: The Beacon
London| Westminster Bridge
Phil sprays the Treasury with ‘Life not death for my grandchildren’.
At 9.45am Westminster Bridge was taken. Approx 10 arrests. Structures unable to be unloaded, but 500 rebels throughout the day held both north and south side, despite police intimidation. One van remains on site, with 2 rebels still remaining on top, surrounded by police.
Throughout the day we’ve had peoples assemblies and trainings, while five naval rebels delivered a message to parliament by water. (Check our Twitter) declaring the TRUTH DEMANDS ACTION.
Notables including Ruby Wax, Juliet Stevenson and Poldark’s Ruby Bentall (who featured in our Humans of XR on instagram on XRTheBeacon) expressed their support, and celebrated a wedding on the bridge. With two rebels declaring their love for each other and this planet. Did someone say Wedminster bridge?
The occupation continues into the night and despite the rain and wind, rebels remain happy and in high spirits with live music ❤️🌏
Workshops still set to happen tomorrow. Full details on everything here.
Site 4: The Love Rebellion
XR East England & West Midlands | Horseguard Parade
The Love Rebellion site was taken at 9am with around 300 Rebels. Two blocks went in: the south end of Horse Guards Road where it joins with Birdcage walk; and Horse Guards Road was blocked near the back entrance to Downing Street. Rebels were soon dancing in the street, the samba band was playing and the sun was shining on the Rebellion!
The Red Rebels’ Mark Rylance, famous for playing the BFG, read out a poem he’d written and thanked Extinction Rebellion for all they are doing. Later on, Gail Bradbrook gave an inspiring speech and as the sun went down KT Tunstall played ‘You’re not the one for me’ followed by two rebel-rousing tunes. There were around 10 arrests. The Love Rebellion continues tomorrow!
Site 7: Burning Earth, Trafalgar Square
Site 3: Global Food Justice
XR South West & Faith | Lambeth Bridge
Road blocks were set up on the south and north sides of Lambeth Bridge at 9am, and the Bridge was taken for a brief period, by a large number of rebels before the police kettled and then moved them off the bridge about two hours later. Approximately 15 arrests were made at this time. Meanwhile infrastructure was established on the roundabout to the North of the Bridge, gazebos and tents were pitched and kitchens established.
Speeches were delivered by George Monbiot, Caroline Lucas and Jenny Jones, but the star of the show was a nine year-old School Strike for Climate organiser. A large number of rebels from the Faith Bridge, arrived singing at about 3:15pm swelling numbers, followed by the drumming band, which lifted spirits.
Police began clearing Millbank during the afternoon and then focussed on confiscating gazebos, structures and personal items before surrounding the site. A people’s assembly was held to decide on whether to stay on the site or move off and reinforce another site. The decision was made to remain and support rebels who were at that time locked on.
Tomorrow, SW rebels will support the Bristol Rebels at Marsham Street and an action against DEFRA is planned.
Site 2: Rewilded North
XR North, Youth, ISN, Global Justice, LGSM | Millibank & Victoria Gardens
After the early police action throughout the city this morning, we decided to set up the Global Justice Rebellion site in its plan B location of St. James’ Park. We were more or less successful in doing so, with a few hindrances. Some of our equipment, such as solar panels and tent materials, was confiscated over the weekend, but we were able to find replacements on time and now have a beautiful site up and running and people to hold it down.
For other things, however, such as the disability access equipment and the kitchen equipment, this was more of a serious issue. In fact, this is in stark contrast with the reason given by the police for the need to clear parts of Lambeth Bridge – to provide access to disabled MPs to parliament.
Thankfully, there was no police presence on site, which is possibly because we are a bit off the beaten path at the moment — and this is also why we would also appreciate a bit of a social media push through the main channels to remind people that our site has moved and where it is now!
We were able to launch the site with an opening ceremony, where most of the groups involved introduced themselves and their reasons for being there, and we had music from around the world. Tomorrow’s theme is ‘migrant justice’, and we have a jam-packed program of talks, workshops and more music, so everyone please make your way there!
Smithfield Meat Market and Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
500 Animal Rebellion activists staged a sit-in at Southampton Row and High Holborn, singing anthems of compassion and calling for food system change, with many passers-by voicing their approval of the protest. The group then marched to Smithfield Meat Market, one of Europe’s largest meat markets, where they have taken over the market’s iconic archway and are now transforming it into a symbolic, artistic plant-based market. Intended to be an overnight occupation, the demonstration seeks to portray what Smithfield needs to become in a future sustainable food system.
Chris, a rebel who has travelled down from Hull, says: “I’m here because I want to see the government tackle climate change and end animal exploitation. I’m hopeful for a better future because of all the amazing people that are standing up to this injustice”.
“We’re at Smithfield today to call for food system change. Animal farming is a leading cause of environmental destruction, and we need to move to a plant-based food system if we want to save our planet and help the billions of animals exploited yearly. We want the government to help Smithfield pioneer the transition to a plant-based food system by transitioning it into a plant-based market. I’m not working for 2 weeks because making this happen is crucial to our future, and the time to act is now.” – Stephanie Zupan, 27, from Toronto
“I was born on a dairy farm, I’ve been vegan five years and vegetarian for 40. A plant-based food system is the way of the future – you can see that from the sheer amount of support we’ve got here today!” – Malcolm Lewis, 74, from Warwickshire
- XR Families & London – The Future is Here – The Mall –
At the Future is Here, over 300 rebels spanning three generations gathered to create the future we know is possible.
Children of all ages have been writing their wishes for the future on pieces of fabric and hanging them from the railings in the Mall. Meanwhile on the main stage over 200 rebels gathered to hear Sir Mark Rylance speak. The actor highlighted our society’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change and also our ability to turn things around rapidly, saying: ‘Change can happen very suddenly as if termites had been chipping away at the infrastructure’.
The peaceful, calm atmosphere on site created a space where over a hundred families gathered in gazebos decorated with pink paper boats to protest alongside their children.
Melissa Branzburg from XR Families Lewisham said:
“I am here with my 3 and 5 year olds to make sure they have a say in their future and to empower them to take action. When you are so young climate change is pretty daunting but this gives them a chance to use their voice to make a difference’
Chiara from XR families Lewisham and a member of Mothers Rise Up was at the site with her 10 month old. She said: ‘we are struggling because if we go down this path our babies will not thrive and will have to fight to survive. I am here with my 10 month old daughter to stand up for her future’
At the Palace end of the Mall 50 rebels held the roadblock with a banner and tents. Frances and Richard are from the same XR Lambeth affinity group, and have been on roadblock duty since The Future is Here was first occupied this morning. Frances said: ‘It’s amazing. You can either lie in bed worrying about the climate crisis, or be here sharing with so many people. It makes me much more optimistic.’
Since taking the space this morning, 23 people have been arrested, including those locked onto a car and 3 locked onto a mock trident-missile. All those people are still being held.
Speeches, music and poetry were shared in the MoD garden – highlights include Bruce Kent, Secretary General CND, Caroline Lucas Green MP, Lindsey German Chair of Stop the War, Victoria Brittain, who spoke about impact of wars as a result of climate change and Rebecca Johnson, co-chair of Nobel Peace Prize winning International Campaign to Abolish nuclear weapons.
The atmosphere has been lovely, relaxed, and people are determined to continue. They will be reconvening tomorrow at 10am to decide whether to continue on their site, or go to support where support is needed.
- XR SE England – Beyond Politics – Whitehall
The afternoon continues with great energy with more than 500 people just by 10 Downing Street. A gazebo went up, and then went down thank to the police. There has been lots of singing and Caroline Lucas MP visited.
Dennis ‘I’m doing it for young people. I’m a Biologist and all this was predicted. If we had started addressing back then we could have been improving things by now. We can still do it’
- XR Youth / International Solidarity Network / Global Justice – St James’ Park
Due to Victoria Palace Gardens being locked, the Global Justice Site has been peacefully installed in St James’ Park, a large marquee with main stage and sound system has been erected. Events began in the marquee with XR Doctors running talks and trainings all day. There has been very little police presence on the site so far.
The Global Justice site will have its Opening Ceremony tonight.
XR Youth have an action planned tomorrow at the Department of Education
Talia Woodin from XR Youth said of the site: “So many people from across XR have pitched in and helped to build the site today from 13 year olds to uni students to adult doctors. This is the one site that really feels different from April and from all the other sites”
- XR Scotland / NE England / Cumbria – Power in Truth – Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy –
The Power in Truth site are currently holding strong and demanding their truth be heard. Rebels have successfully blocked the road outside BEIS, with tents and gazebos in place. Several several hundred people are gathered at the crossing where Storey Gate meets Victoria Street and holding banners, singing, chanting and acting peacefully. So far 3 have been arrested, 2 of which were drivers of the food truck arriving to feed peaceful activists. Outside BEIS 4 people are locked on under the van carrying the site’s infrastructure for the weeks ahead and police are currently surrounding it, refusing to let it through. The atmosphere remains positive and calm with people singing.
James Masson, 21, from Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire said, “It’s inspiring to see so many people from all over the UK out on the streets to protect nature and sticking up for future generations to have a livable planet.”
UK Rebellion Needs
This Rebellion needs all hands on deck.
Check out our live page to see the latest ways you can help – from helping remotely to offering food to knowing your rights!
Your planet needs you!
We attracted a lot of attention in the Media
Yesterday the world was watching Extinction Rebellion. The Washington Post declared that ‘it seems (XR) tactics work’. International attention came from The Japan Times, Al Jazeera, ITV the BBC and Euro News . The actions of XR led to journalists reviewing state climate policies throughout the UK, Australia and Germany, demonstrating the serious educational role played by XR’s theatre of protest.
In the UK coverage of the protests bridged the political divide. Right wing media outlets like The Telegraph and The Spectator devoted pieces towards XR while the Daily Mail, for the first time, provided excitable and positive framings of XR protests expressing the same ‘solidarity’ evoked by John McDonnell. Despite such endorsements the Prime Minister dismissed protesters as ‘uncooperative crusties’.
While there was little media criticism of XR, questions of diversity were raised by The Independent while the Evening Standard branded XR’s demands as ‘impossible’. The most popular story was that of 81-year-old Sarah Lanesby who got arrested because of the ‘ghastly state we have our planet in’. The public loved videos of police seizing a sculpture of a large metal head on Lambeth bridge and the footage of two men chained to a car on the Embankment. In other news congratulations to Melissa and Tasmin who used the days rebellion to get married on Westminster bridge! XR has caught the media’s eye and in doing so brought the science of climate disaster to millions. Well done and keep up the good work.
Humans of XR
To read more human stories – or to write your own – join our Facebook group.
‘I haven’t always been active.
I’ve been on many marches, signed up to campaigns, signed petitions, written dozens of letters, joined the Green Party, stood for Parliament… and at no time did I see the system even flinch; at no time did I feel listened to.
This became obvious with the advent of HS2. Suddenly I was looking at plans of destruction. Every part of our system seemed geared to shut us up. Don’t let anyone say anything. The media, councils, MPs, parties…. Everywhere the truth should be told was conspiring against us. Grey people thinking without knowing, not hearing, not feeling, not seeing.
I saw them fell a woodland 2 years ago. Tears. I saw a very dear friend crouch under a digger. Everything stopped, briefly. Everything except for the media. They started to listen. I did no more than tap feverishly on a screen. But one day seeing a beautiful tunnel of trees over Harvil Road start to succumb to massive machinery…..I was on my own….. only one thing to do.
Stand in front of a digger. Feel bloody scared, tremble uncontrollably, but….watch a little corner of the system collapse in confusion. Save fifty trees, and all life within.
Sit on Waterloo Bridge with hundreds of lovely like minded people……..Feel the power! Feel a system grinding and groaning, feel a system unable to cope! People power does not lie in a pencil cross every 5 years.
Step outside, listen, smell, taste, feel. Open your eyes, uncover your I.