Climate rebels open new fronts across capital as protests escalate

Activists block trade at Billingsgate fish market and target headquarters of energy company Shell to ‘raise awareness’

 An Extinction Rebellion demonstration in Brussels on Saturday. Photograph: Isopix/REX/Shutterstock

Climate protesters on Saturday intensified efforts to disrupt life in London, and targeted sites including Billingsgate fish market and Shell’s headquarters. They said police took at least 28 of their supporters into custody. That number means that more than 1,200 Extinction Rebellion activists have been arrested in London since their protests, over the government’s “failure” to act over climate change, were launched last Monday.

And those detained include Belgian Princess Esméralda who was taken into a police van for questioning and held for about five hours after she joined a sit-in at Trafalgar Square on Thursday. “The more people from all sections of society protest, the greater the impact will be,” the 63-year-old said. Other protests launched on Saturday included one by more than 50 healthcare professionals – wearing scrubs and singing the Extinction Rebellion anthem – who gathered outside Shell’s headquarters before they marched to Parliament Square. “We are meeting outside Shell because they are one of the biggest companies involved in the oil and energy industry, and they have real power to decarbonise that industry,” said Alex Turner, 36, a paediatric and emergency doctor from Bristol. “We are protesting illegal levels of air pollution.”

Julia Simons, 23, a final-year medical student at Cambridge University, said: “Our government has the responsibility to explain [climate science] to its citizens, to understand that if they don’t act radically, that future which I’ve been studying for won’t exist.” Hundreds of protesters remained camped in Trafalgar Square, where police were continuing efforts to remove them and the roadblock they had set up in Westminster.

Similar protests took place in many other countries. Dutch police arrested 130 activists in Amsterdam after they blocked a bridge in the centre of the city. Some protesters slumped on hammocks hung from pillars supporting the bridge to prevent boats from passing underneath.

In France, hundreds of activists blocked a route to the national assembly in Paris for several hours but were later dispersed by police. In Brussels, demonstrators occupied the gardens of the royal palace while in Melbourne protesters said they would hold a “spring rebellion” of civil disobedience this week including blocking traffic.

 Doctors gather to protest in support of Extinction Rebellion in London. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Pinterest

At the same time, a petition calling for non-violent protest to be maintained to ensure action is taken to tackle climate change has been signed by more than 300 scientists and environmentalists. “We have an obligation that extends beyond merely describing and understanding the natural world to taking an active part in helping to protect it,” the petition states. “The scientific community has already tried all conventional methods to draw attention to the crisis. We believe continued governmental inaction over the climate and ecological crisis now justifies peaceful and non-violent protest and direct action, even if this goes beyond the bounds of the current law. We believe it is our moral duty to act now, and we urge other scientists to join us in helping to protect humanity’s only home.”

District judge John Zani granted Brown conditional bail, prohibiting him from going within one mile of any airport in the UK.

Brown – who participated in five Paralympic Games and won two gold medals and a bronze – told reporters he was “relieved” to be out of custody. “I am not denying what I did, but I was compelled to do what I did because of my concerns for the future of my children,” he added.

The protest at Billingsgate, the UK’s largest inland fish market, by Extinction Rebellion’s animal rebellion chapter began early on Saturday when protesters blocked the entrance. One demonstrator locked herself to the gate. Police initially tried to prevent the protesters from reaching the market but relented after negotiations, the group said.

“At London’s Billingsgate market, thousands of fish, stolen daily from their ocean homes, lie dead or dying,” said Kerri Waters, a spokesperson for Animal Rebellion. “Many will have suffocated slowly when pulled aboard fishing vessels, while thousands of others remain alive as they’re transported by lorry to the market, where they’ll be gutted or boiled alive.” SOURCE

What is Canada doing to protect the environment? Read RCI’s reports

Extinction rebellion action in Canada: measured success

Protesters with Extinction Rebellion occupied a bridge in and out of downtown Vancouver on October 7, 2019. Several bridges were closed across Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

On October 7, 2019, Extinction Rebellion activists blocked several bridges in Canada and succeeded in drawing attention to their message that climate change is an emergency already underway. The movement’s name refers to the belief that the world has entered the sixth global mass extinction event. It’s symbol is an hourglass that represents the view that time is running out.

The group’s first protest in 2018 rallied 1,500 activists in London, England, and has since spread to more than 60 countries.

When compared with the large student marches led by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, actions by Extinction Rebellion tactics are more intense.

Three protesters scaled a Montreal bridge on Oct. 8, 2019, forcing police to shut it down during rush hour. (Simon Marc Charron Radio-Canada)

Dramatic acts sometimes break the law

“Extinction Rebellion engages in non-violent, direct action, where they do dramatic acts. Sometimes they even break the law,” says Patricia Wood, a geography professor at York University and author of Citizenship, Activism and the City.

“They are trying to really draw attention and interrupt our daily lives.”  They occupy urban space in a way that disrupts commutes, they have glued themselves to government buildings and they sometimes wear colourful costumes and use creative signage.”

Some activists, like the one in the background on an Edmonton street, wear colourful costumes to draw attention to their demands. (Amber Bracken/The Canadian Press)

Negative reaction can help, says author

There has been some negative reaction to the tactics, notably from commuters who argue that sitting in their cars on blocked bridges emits more greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. But Wood says that can further the activists’ goals.

“It certainly is annoying and that’s kind of the point, right, is to interrupt and annoy people as a way of really getting their attention around the urgency of this question because, while a lot of people may acknowledge the reality of climate change and the need to do something, there’s…an accurate sense that we’re not doing enough and we’re not doing it quickly enough.”

More action coming next week

Wood thinks the action has succeeded in drawing more attention to the urgency of climate change in that there has been extensive media coverage and efforts by journalists to delve more deeply into the subject, and politicians have been talking more about it, particularly in Canada’s current election campaign.

There will be another week of intense actions by Extinction Rebellion and Wood says she will be interested to see if they grow in size and drama, and whether governments respond. “If governments do not respond to them, I think it’s likely that we could expect to see an escalation in tactics because certainly, the science is on their side. They’re right

Prof. Patricia Wood discusses the tactics of climate activists with Extinction Rebellion.  Watch the video


Extinction Rebellion: What it is, what it wants

On Monday the activist group Extinction Rebellion blocked bridges in cities across Canada, including Halifax, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver.

While the climate action group may have been relatively unknown until now, it has been expanding rapidly around the world. Here’s a closer look.

What is Extinction Rebellion?

Extinction Rebellion (XR) was launched by British activists Roger Hallam and Gail Bradbrook on Oct. 31, 2018 — shortly after a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said policymakers have only 12 years to stop global catastrophic climate change.

The group is also concerned about findings that suggest humanity has entered the sixth global mass extinction event. XR’s symbol is an hourglass in a circle that represents time running out. Its mandate is to draw attention to the mass extinction of life on Earth and “minimize the risk of social collapse.”

How big is XR?

The group says its first protest in 2018 drew 1,500 people to Parliament Square in London. It has now spread to more than 60 countries with 350 local groups.

According to its website, there are more than 30 XR groups across Canada, at both the local and provincial levels.

What is XR demanding and from whom?

Extinction Rebellion has three primary demands of governments:

    • Declare a climate and ecological emergency.
    • Act immediately to stop the loss of biodiversity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
    • “Create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.”

What kinds of tactics does XR use?

According to the group
, it “uses nonviolent civil disobedience.” Its members’ tactics include blocking traffic on bridges and thoroughfares and glueing themselves to public buildings.

British author and environmental activist George Monbiot is a strong supporter of XR, and said the group is unlike anything he’s seen before.

“It’s really the first movement in my life that’s been of sufficient scale to address this issue,” Monbiot told CBC. “I’ve been an activist and journalist in this field for 34 years, and there’ve been lots of movements coming and going, and a lot of them have been great … but none of them has reached this scale and this impact.”

Why has this movement caught on so quickly?

Laurie Adkin, an associate professor at the University of Alberta‘s department of political science, said it’s unclear why XR has grown so quickly. One possibility is that in addition to the participation of many young people, we’re seeing an older generation of climate researchers and citizens concerned about climate change taking part after decades of political inaction. Adkin also said that XR might have staying power.

“I think it has a lot of growth potential because the crisis we’re facing is truly an existential one,” said Adkin.

This Is Not a Drill: 700+ Arrested as Extinction Rebellion Fights Climate Crisis with Direct Action

Demoncracy Now!: More than 700 people have been arrested in civil disobedience actions as the group Extinction Rebellion kicked off two weeks of protests in 60 cities worldwide, demanding urgent government action on the climate crisis. Its members have superglued themselves to government buildings, occupied public landmarks, shut down roads and taken to the streets to sound the alarm about the impending catastrophe of global warming. Extinction Rebellion, a nonpolitical movement, launched last year in the U.K. and rose to prominence in April, when it disrupted traffic in Central London for 11 days. For more about the significance of the coordinated global protests, we speak with Extinction Rebellion co-founder Gail Bradbrook.

This is protester Jake Lynch speaking from the streets of London.

JAKE LYNCH: Well, it’s now five months since Parliament declared a climate emergency, and yet we’ve seen no emergency legislation brought forward to take effective action to stem the climate crisis. So we’re still subsidizing fossil fuels more than any other country in Europe. Globally, carbon emissions are still increasing. We’re heading in precisely the wrong direction. We here at Extinction Rebellion are taking action to interrupt the flow of normality, because it is that flow that is carrying us towards disaster.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Extinction Rebellion launched in London last year and has since grown into a global movement. Prime Minister Boris Johnson attacked the group’s protesters Monday night, calling them “uncooperative crusties.” Climate activist George Monbiot responded, tweeting, quote, “I’m proud to be an #UncooperativeCrusty. #ExtinctionRebellion continues. Come and see why Boris Johnson hates it so much, and how it challenges the life-destroying system he defends.”

AMY GOODMAN: In New York City, nearly 90 activists were arrested after staging a die-in on Wall Street, pouring fake blood on the iconic bull statue outside the New York Stock Exchange. Dozens were also arrested in Amsterdam, Vienna and Madrid. In Brisbane, Australia, an activist hung from Story Bridge in a hammock for six hours. Activists also took to the streets in Chile, Colombia and Mexico. Brazilian protesters held a die-in on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. Protesters shut down the street in central Paris near the Notre-Dame, and hundreds flooded the streets of Berlin to demand action to combat global warming. This is German climate activist and migrant rescue ship captain Carola Rackete speaking from Berlin.

CAROLA RACKETE: [translated] As Extinction Rebellion, we demand that net emissions be reduced to zero by 2025 as part of an emergency program, as well as an immediate halt to the loss of biodiversity. What we also demand, and this is the interesting part, is that there be a citizens gathering which votes on the necessary measures. Extinction Rebellion will never make concrete policy proposals. We are saying the issue has to be handed back democratically to the citizens, who then decide on the measures together.

AMY GOODMAN: Protests continue today in cities around the world. In London, Extinction Rebellion plans to plant at least 800 trees outside of Parliament.