“We’ll be at this for as long as it takes”
With over 120 people arrested in London so far, the climate change campaign group Extinction Rebellion say that they only plan to escalate their protest action across London.
Back in March, Extinction Rebellion held the ‘Spring Rebellion’ festival in Bristol to train thousands for this week’s “peaceful nonviolent civil disobedience”.
Calling for government to take immediate action against pollution and climate change, protesters today caused a second day of disruption after camping out on Waterloo Bridge, Parliament Square and Oxford Circus to bring some of the busiest parts of London to a standstill. Their hope is to “shut down London” until April 29, unless the government “tell the truth about climate change”, promise to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025, and create a citizens’ assembly to oversee progress.
The likes of Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien and Emily Eavis have voiced their support for the group. Police say that 122 people have been arrested so far, with 500,000 people affected by the diversion of 55 bus routes. Now Extinction Rebellion say they only plan to heighten their efforts indefinitely until the government take action.
“The plan is for ongoing escalation,” Extinction Rebellion co-ordinator Howard Rees told NME from Waterloo Bridge. “Beyond the sites that we’re holding, we’re planning to roadblocks on adjacent roads and possibly some further, more secret actions. I don’t necessarily know what all of them are, because we’re a decentralised group and act in autonomy in line with our main principles: the key one is non-violence.”
Asked what it would take for the protests to be brought to an end, Rees replied: “I imagine that if we were invited to discuss them with the government, then we might ramp things down. Discussions alone aren’t enough, though. We’re in a state of emergency and we need it dealt with.
“We’ll keep going until we win. We’ve suggested that people take a couple of weeks of work, but that by no means that we’ll only be at this for two weeks. We’ll be at it for as long as it takes.”
Rees said that the protesters have people from all backgrounds and walks of life, but that young people are particularly out in force.
“We’re a pretty representative mix of all ages, just looking around the Bridge right now,” said Rees. “We are the British public. The involvement of young people has been fantastic. It’s been great to have them on board. Obviously they are going to be the most effected. We’re doing it for everyone, but mainly for them. They’re really taking a leadership in it all.”
He continued: “Young people have been refreshingly full of energy, but aware of the severity of what’s going on in a way that older people elsewhere perhaps aren’t. They’ve really got their eyes open and remain uncowed with a phenomenal optimism. It’s inspiring.”
Despite the arrests, Rees said that he’d felt an overwhelming sense of support for their cause – even from the police.
“The police have tried to clear us from Waterloo Bridge and we’ve held through the night and are holding strong now. Generally speaking, the police have been friendly and not heavy-handed. We’ve had some great conversations with them because broadly we’re all on the same side – we’re on the side of life.”
According to the timeline on their website, tomorrow (Wednesday April 17) will see them adopt a mode of “Open Rebellion For As Long As It Takes”.
“If there is still no response, we will begin to block roads outwards from the sites and continue to stage and escalate our creative nonviolent civil disobedience,” they said.
Check back at NME for more on the Extinction Rebellion march as it develops.