Extinction Rebellion is leading a four-day climate protest in London, currently underway, called “The Big One.” Over 30,000 people have pledged to attend with more than 200 organisations participating.
Thousands of people packed the streets around the Houses of Parliament in London on Friday and Saturday. Under the shadow of Big Ben, participants dressed in costumes, beating drums and waving flags called for greater action to be taken by the British government on climate change.
The series of events and activities started with a people’s picket at 7am on Friday, April 21, and will go on until Monday. Not quite a march, not quite a rally. The packed program includes speeches, art activities, workshops, pickets, rallies, marches, and more.
Extinction Rebellion’s three core demands are: Tell the Truth, Act Now and Decide Together. For “The Big One” they are specifically demanding a citizen-led democracy to end the fossil fuel era and a fair society that includes reparations.
Lucy, an activist with Greenpeace, talked to Impakter while encouraging passers by to add their own climate messages to a giant banner. The plan was for it to be hung on Sunday to be seen when runners taking part in the London Marathon passed by. She expressed her hope at the unity the event was showing:
“It’s been great that Greenpeace has come together with Extinction Rebellion and lots of other groups, because ultimately everyone has the same message and it’s more powerful that we all come together as one rather than acting individually.”
Speaking of her hopes for the event, she wished “people who come here can see that this is an area of positivity.”
“It’s a constructive area,” she said. “I hope it will help give positive visibility to [climate activism].”
Unity was a key theme. As well as climate change organisations big and small, religious groups, unions, scientists, and students are also participating.
Emma Garnett, a sustainability researcher at the University of Oxford who joined the protest along with her mum, said to Impakter: “It’s amazing. It’s overwhelming. There’s so much colour and so many people and so many sounds.”
For Garnett, it was about “finding encouragement and solidarity and showing up in numbers.”
”Showing this isn’t a niche concern, that the general public are massively concerned about climate change. That it’s unignorable,” she added.
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Founded in 2018, Extinction Rebellion became known for their disruptive direct action protests. This included blocking bridges, roads, and their activists gluing themselves to buildings. Thousands of activists have been arrested during those previous protests.
As opposed to disrupting the public as they have in the past, they say the event this weekend aims to get the attention of the government.
This was the first major event since announcing a temporary shift in strategy four months ago, focusing on mass mobilisation as opposed to disruptive action. However, it could be the last.
In a press release on Monday April 17, Extinction Rebellion and other high profile groups including Greenpeace and War on Want issued two demands to the government: an immediate stop to the search for new fossil fuels, and that citizens assemblies would be organised to let the people decide how the fossil fuel era would be ended quickly and fairly.
If the government failed to respond by 5pm on Monday, the final day of “The Big One” event, Extinction Rebellion and their allies would “step up their campaigns and actions across the country to force them to do so.”
“Four months ago, Extinction Rebellion announced ‘We quit’ and entered into a period of alliance-building with other movements and groups by temporarily stepping back from our tactics of civil disobedience,” Rob Callender of Extinction Rebellion said, elaborating:
“This is their [the government’s] last chance to show us that they are serious about saving our lives and our futures by agreeing to enter negotiations around our demands.”
If not, “within three months, Extinction Rebellion will have designed a plan for the greatest acts of civil disobedience in this country’s history,” Callender added.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: In the Photo: An Extinction Rebellion Flag flying in front of Big Ben, London, UK, April 22, 2023. Featured Photo Credit: Robert Postings