Battle of Waterloo Bridge: a week of rebellion protests of extinction | Environment


On Monday morning, a strange sight appeared, paving the way between buses, taxis and shoppers on Oxford Street in London.

A bright pink boat, named Berta Caceres, named after the murdered Honduran environmental activist, was being pulled cautiously by traffic, stopping in the middle of one of London's busiest thoroughfares.

Extinction The rebellion is an international protest group that uses nonviolent civil disobedience to campaign on environmental issues. The demonstration included blocking traffic bridges in London and a semi-naked protest inside the House of Commons.

The group says that climate collapse threatens all life on Earth, and is therefore rebelling against politicians who "failed us" to bring about radical changes that will prevent a climate emergency.

Photo: AgĂȘncia Anadolu / Anadolu

Dumb assistants watched as activists secured "Berta" for the road, while others clung to their gaudy helmet. And with this extravagant act of defiance, the climactic protests of the Extinction Rebellion began.

Over the next five days, thousands of people, ranging from pensioners to young parents with young children, scientists to city officials, teenagers to teachers, have occupied four milestones in the capital, challenging repeated attempts by police to remove them and cause widespread disruption. Small disruptive events occurred throughout the UK and 33 other countries.

How to Pass the Message on the Waterloo Bridge

Passing the message on Waterloo Bridge. Photo: Stefan Rousseau / PA

Late Friday night, police said 682 people had been arrested in London. Three people who joined a train on Wednesday were arrested. That same day four more people joined the fence outside Jeremy Corbyn's house, declaring the Labor leader "the best hope this country has" to meet the challenges of the ongoing climate crisis.

And on Friday about 20 young demonstrators, all born after 1990, stretched a lane on a road outside Heathrow airport, asking, "Are we the last generation?"

But perhaps the greatest achievement of the protesters is that millions of people have heard their message that the world is in a spiral climatic emergency that demands transformational changes to avoid catastrophe.

Yoga Session at Waterloo Bridge

Yoga session at Waterloo Bridge. Photography: Tolga Akmen / AFP / Getty Images

Through hundreds of articles, editorials and radio and TV interviews, including some criticism hostile to his tactics, the message of the Extinction Rebellion has become popular.

"It has been a resounding success," said one of the group's organizers, Howard Rees, examining the scene at Waterloo Bridge on Thursday afternoon. "What are we doing? Day four? We are keeping all the sites, we are attracting many new members, everyone is having a lot of fun, there is a party atmosphere everywhere … the police are generally positive and friendly with us and agree with what we are doing. And we're getting our message out there. It could not be going better, really.

Extinction Protestant rebellion block Oxford Circus.

Extinction Protestant rebellion block Oxford Circus. Photo: Facundo Arrizabalaga / EPA

The four occupied sites, Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge and Parliament Square, were blocked in quick succession on Monday morning, causing widespread disruption in central London.

And while the activists who had gathered in the sun at Waterloo Bridge had no idea how long they were going to be there-or what the police's reaction would be-there was a jubilant atmosphere as they crowded the road.

"I'm very concerned about what's happening to the planet," said Laura Sorensen, a retired Somerset professor. "We're on the edge of a knife now and I felt strongly that I had to go out and show myself instead of just talking about it in the pub."

A little farther on at Waterloo Bridge was Josiah Finegan, a 22-year-old who had never attended a protest before.

"I'm freaking out about the weather, to be honest," he said. "There have been so many warnings from scientists about what we are facing, it is quite shocking."

Before joining the protest, Finegan added, "I have no idea what to expect or what might happen … I just heard about it and felt I had to come."

Demonstrators built a skateboard ramp on the bridge

Demonstrators built a skateboard ramp on the bridge. Photo: Henry Nicholls / Reuters

Police mingled with the protesters, talking and watching the flowers, trees in large tubs, a mini skateboard ramp and even a truck being dragged onto the normally bottled bridge.

Looking, a senior official said the police response would be commensurate.

"These people are explicitly peaceful, they have been closely related to us about their plans and have a legitimate cause. We all have a limit to what we think is the right level of action to take, but I think everyone is concerned about climate change. "

The police response to the peaceful demonstrators was proportional and relations remained cordial

The police response to the peaceful demonstrators was proportional and relations remained cordial. Photography: Tolga Akmen / AFP / Getty Images

In the days that followed, the success, tactics, and sheer determination of the demonstrations surprised many, though they had been planning for more than a year.

The peaceful mass disorder strategy was tested in a much smaller series of air pollution protests last year, with activists blocking busy crossings for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. The group expects such protests to take two forms: they put economic pressure on the government by disrupting infrastructure and forcing people to confront the reality of the climate emergency by disrupting their daily lives.

After perfecting the process, the organizers spent months holding public meetings throughout the country. Thousands of people gathered in libraries and meeting rooms, cafes and universities, bars and churches to hear warnings about the consequences of the climate emergency and what they could do about it, with hundreds enrolling to participate in large-scale and imprisoned rebellions .

Speaking to the Guardian after a meeting last summer, Roger Hallam, one of the leading figures behind this week's protests, said: "It seems like we are using something very powerful in terms of frustration and urgency that many people are feeling as evidence." of the scale of the climate emergency we are facing. "

Ten months later, it looks like he was right.

The group's success this week did not come without internal tensions, exacerbated by the non-hierarchical structure of the group. The decision to block trains and potentially pipes was hotly debated Tuesday night. A similar discussion took place on the plan to reach Heathrow.

And as the week passed, and the world media's attention turned slowly to the protests, the pressure on the volunteers trying to organize it and control it only increased.

"The phones never stop ringing, we have press inquiries around the media world around the world … it was not like that at my old job," said one of the young women from the Extinction Rebellion media team, who paused in her career as a volunteer. a few months ago. "But this has been one of the most exhausting and stimulating weeks of my life."

Extinction revolt says that thousands of people are signing up every day. The group's rise to prominence came amid growing evidence of climate disruption, from flooding to hot flashes, melting ice sheets to bad harvests.

His message on the scale of the climate crisis resonated because it is backed by science. On Thursday night, David Attenborough presented a BBC primetime documentary, Climate Change: The Facts, supporting the central claim of the Extinction Rebellion that the world is in a climate emergency. Earlier this week, Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, said that the global financial system faces an existential threat of climate change and must take urgent action for reform.

As the sun sets at Waterloo Bridge on Thursday night, Finegan is dancing and laughing with a group of 20 people of all ages and backgrounds, accompanied by a collection of drummers and other musicians.

"It's been insane, incredible," he says. "I've been very worried about these things, but in the last days, well, I feel like that has changed everything."


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