Faced with the prospect of a sixth mass extinction due to climate change and environmental destruction, a group of protestors blocked access to Downing Street in London, where the residence and office of the country’s Prime Minister are located. Under the umbrella of decentralized activist group Extinction Rebellion, the activists also hung two 37-meter-long banners reading “CLIMATE CHANGE” and “WE’RE FUCKED” from the iconic Westminster Bridge in front of Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster.
The action occurred just two days after Extinction Rebellion activists blockaded the UK’s Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, which resulted in 22 arrests. At Downing Street, they deployed similar nonviolent tactics, spray painting and gluing their hands to government property. So far, 27 activists have been arrested at the event. The protests are part of a week-long series of demonstrations leading up to a “Day of Rebellion” on November 17.
Because Extinction Rebellion is a decentralized group, it has the potential to spread beyond London. So far, a Day of Rebellion action is planned to occur at the Natural History Museum in Dublin. There are similar events planned for Manchester and Edinburgh and an Extinction Rebellion Los Angeles group has already sprung up. The group says that non-violent direct action trainings are taking place in other places, including Leeds and Wales, in preparation for the Day of Rebellion.
The group has received an increasing amount of support from prominent figures, including nearly 100 academics and members of Parliament. Guardian author George Monbiot is publishing regular articles supporting the group. Alongside ordinary civilians that have stated the willingness to be arrested during protests, are politicians like Stroud Labour councillor Skeena Rathor, who, along with her 15-year-old daughter, said they would protest the UK government in the face of arrest.
It’s difficult to determine what the impact of these events will have in terms of concrete institutional outcomes, but in Bristol on October 25, a group of Extinction Rebellion protesters stopped traffic with a samba band. The same action was repeated again on Monday, November 12 and, as traffic clogged the streets, a waste management driver actually pushed the band leader down the road with his truck. Just two days later, Bristol City Council agreed to declare a climate emergency to address climate change and to push forward its plan of becoming carbon neutral to 2030, instead of 2050.
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Extinction Rebellion has informed the local government that it will be creating a number of roadblocks on Saturday, November 17, that will barricade five major bridges with the goal of “bring[ing] central London to a standstill”. The group has also announced a “Rebellion Day 2”, to occur in Parliament Square on November 24. In a press release, Extinction Rebellion said, “Thousands of people will be gathering in Parliament Square, London, from 8am each day from Wednesday 21st to Friday 23rd of November. They will be occupying the bridges and roads of central London. Through daily economic disruption, we hop the government will finally start taking the climate crisis seriously and address our demand for radical action.”
The concrete demands being put forth are that “the UK government immediately declares a climate and ecological emergency; reduces to zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, and creates a citizens’ assembly to oversee these changes.”