An inside look at Extinction Rebellion’s ‘autumn uprising’

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The following entries were sent to Palatinate via text, over the course of four days in London, during the Extinction Rebellion (XR) Autumn Uprising.

Thursday 10th October 11:08 am

My friend has just been released after being arrested yesterday. The group I know were occupying a space which got cleared by police yesterday. Since Monday, they’d established a settlement with a food tent, first aid, and stage, but this was all taken away by police yesterday. They were originally helping to block a road outside the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, but now they’ve moved to combine with another site nearby. I set off on the bus from Durham this morning with no idea what to bring to survive until Monday, because so much of the XR infrastructure is gone. People are now discussing walking en masse to the City Airport, which is planning a £2 billion expansion and is mostly only used by business elites. Protesters are saying that since yesterday, the police are using far more aggressive tactics. I should get there to join them for 5 pm.  The original 12 sites of protest have now combined into 6 sites.

5:17 pm

St James Park camping site is being cleared by police, no one else is allowed into the park. The tent and sleeping bag I was taking over from a friend was left there. After being overwhelmed in SJP, I fled to Pret a Manger to try and work out what to do, as I had nowhere to sleep and no-one to see. A group from Scotland agreed to show me to another area to camp, and we split into trios so we could move through London without being stopped.

6:59 pm

The police have blocked the bridge over the Thames to stop protesters moving anywhere. New sites being established across the city, including my own.

9:59 pm

Those protesting at city airport today have been escorted off-premises. Those previously camping at St James have moved to sites closer to residential areas, with the previous divides by region no longer followed as protesters split to avoid the police. One group marched from St James to Vauxhall, accompanied by a band. The police briefly attempted a roadblock to stop protesters but have relinquished. Most groups moved from their original sites to St James, and then have had to move again. Much equipment has been lost with each move, as the police dispose of equipment that is not moved quickly enough.

Toilets and water are being provided by local pubs sympathetic to XR aims.

I’m going to sleep in a tent and sleeping bag I collected from lost property after mine were taken – I’ve texted the owner who had written their name on, but so far no reply.

0:07 am

Got woken up to the shouts that vans are here. At least three trucks packed to their fill with equipment salvaged from other sites were unloaded. Within two hours, a wellbeing tent, first aid team, stewards, two kitchens, communal sleep spaces and decorations were established. The Vauxhall Pleasance Gardens site has been reportedly allowed by local authorities at least for tonight. Tomorrow, it might all have to be taken down again, as the hundreds of people here move onto somewhere else. A few pairs of police are patrolling, with police vans continuously present.

Police vans continuously present

Friday 11th October 11:17 am

Section 14 is now in place across the whole of central London except Trafalgar Square, restricting any public assembly. Lambeth Council have given permission for XR to continue their camping site on Vauxhall pleasance, under the condition of minimal disruption. More police are now at the Vauxhall site, but currently without conflict. Food has been arriving to all the sites on bicycle, as hot curry served with fresh bhajis.

XR held a mass meeting this morning at Trafalgar to discuss the action plan for today. Police have now arrested over 1100 people, and there have been reports of “de-arrests”, where rebels are arrested then quickly dropped off again due to police reluctance to arrest more.

Police have now arrested over 1100 people

2:34 pm

Police still attempting to clear protesters off roads around Trafalgar Square, but many are now sat down. Helicopters circling. Someone wrote the number for a good solicitor on my arm.

Saturday 12th October, 9:40 am

Last night, a road blockade at Liverpool St lasted over 7 hours, from 2.30pm until 10 pm. Once the crowd and samba band were cleared, the main blockade was four protesters locked with their arms in an oil barrel. The barrel was filled with concrete, metal and foam, making the extraction process difficult for the police to drill through. Very tired because both poles of my tent were snapped when I got back to it last night, and everything is soaked because we were outside so long in the rain yesterday.

The main blockade was four protestors locked with their arms in an oil barrel

2:18 pm

This morning I was joined by another Durham student, so we’ve been taking it slowly as she hasn’t been non-violent direct action trained by XR, and as an Erasmus student, she can’t risk arrest. We’re attending a Grief March from Marble Arch to Russell Square. The march is moving very slowly, but it’s themed as a funeral march for the many threatened species and the dying ecosystems, so there are many skeletons and face nets. So many people are here, we are moving very slowly. But there are lots of families so the police should keep it safe.

As an Erasmus student, she can’t risk arrest

10:18 pm

It feels like it has been raining non-stop ever since I got here. Got back to my tent to find it once more collapsed and rivers of water running through my sleeping bag. The march today took three hours, but then the city was congested and the tube stations were rammed. The police had tried to stop the march, but there were too many people.

At Parliament Square, hundreds of rebels are milling around. There was a huge police presence, with horses, and I walked alone quickly to avoid being associated with the various crowds of plotting protesters. I’ll sleep in the communal marquee, because I can’t face another night in my pond of a tent.

I walked quickly to avoid being associated with the various crowds of plotting protestors

Sunday 13th October, 9:48 am

Woke up in Vauxhall Gardens to the sound of someone offering dry socks around, to much joy. It’s stopped raining and in the muesli queue, there seems to be lots of new faces. Time to go salvage my tent. Today my mum and her three friends have come down to see the protests. I’m meeting them at Trafalgar Square, which is a legal protest so they won’t be at risk.

14:24pm

Went to a meditation with XR Buddhists at Charing Cross station. Fifty people sat down on the floor, crossed-legged and eyes closed, and within 10 minutes surrounded by police. The train station tannoy announced this was trespassing, and those who didn’t wish to be arrested stood up. Others stayed sat, trembling as they meditated, until they were dragged away.

19:50pm

Briefly joined the march for Rojave, then met hundreds of others to protest outside Scotland New Yard. The disability support equipment to help protesters with disabilities was seized a week ago, and this week, 20 disabled people protested here but were surrounded and arrested. Many more arrests were made today.

Monday 14th October, 07:21 am

Rebels met at half five this morning to storm The City of London, but I didn’t wake up until seven because I stayed indoors last night. On my way over there now.

09:27 am

The junction above Bank Tube Station is filled with people, blocking the four roads that come to it with banners. Already, three people from the North East have been arrested before I got here.

11:54 am

The police crowded together at the pavement, then started walking forward to push the crowd across the road. The protesters who could risk arrest sat down, and just as the police began to prepare to arrest, someone called for silence and the crowd tried to be quiet.

From another street, a procession of Jews, Christians and Buddhists came, skirting behind the police to stand where the road had been cleared, to block it once more. The police retreated back to the pavement, and a rabbi gave a speech.

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3 thoughts on “An inside look at Extinction Rebellion’s ‘autumn uprising’

  • I very much respect your passion and dedication to this brilliant cause. But I have a few reservations about the protests (while fully supporting the wider movement)… firstly, you have mentioned a large number of resources (notably a left tent) being used to house, feed and accommodate protestors which with the worsening weather would be so very appreciated across the channel in the dispersed Calais Jungle and Dunkirk Camp. Is there a good system whereby resources are being redirected towards refugees? Dry socks are items always in high demand. Secondly, I was wondering how the protests foresee the movement achieving its aim. From my understanding of the career politicians we are seeing at the moment, they will only respond to mass opinion (as wrong as that is). They respond to issues that may cost them the election. And I am very afraid that these protests are increasingly alienating the majority of the population who are angered by the redirection of an enormous amount of taxpayer money on protestors strapped to buildings (especially in a city where gang crime is a daily news story). I fully agree with the cause but I think a reassessment of strategy is needed. XR needs to include and welcome the general public in to the movement if it stands any chance of success.

    Reply
    • No more “reassessment of strategy.” No more “welcoming the general public.”

      For decades, green activists have been trying to make politicians, and the public, understand the scale and urgency of the issue here. And they have been ignored. People still do not understand. XR was born because the time for asking nicely is long gone. Time to rebel.

      Reply
    • The resources are used for XR activists and will be shared between members and stored in the London office following the protests, to be used at future events. However, the police strategy was to seize as much equipment as possible to try and reduce our numbers. The police stated that any lost property which could be identified (eg with a name written on) could be returned. All other equipment they dispose of or give to charity. There were some cases where protesters found their tent was seized, and the police refused to return them from lost property as they could not remember enough distinguishing features about the tent. It would be brilliant for the police to send seized equipment to refugee or homeless charities but I’m not familiar with their procedures.

      XR will achieve its aim by drawing attention to the climate crisis. However much Londoners dislike XR tactics, this week, the media has been full of discussion about the climate crisis. Following the XR protests in April, public concern about the climate crisis reached an all time high. Also, the disruption is designed to be expensive for the state and economy, as with other protest and strike actions. That’s what makes them effective, unfortunately. We want this issue to become too prominent and expensive for the state to ignore. The public don’t want the protesters to be there… The protesters don’t want to be there, neither do the police. The government have to act to make that the case.

      Despite biased media reporting, I spent a lot of time talking to the public in Westminster, and didn’t receive any negative feedback this time. I did in April, which I hope demonstrates the growing understanding of our cause. Unless its just coincidence that the hundreds of people I leafleted and the dozens of conversations I had this time were all people sympathetic to our cause, the public are with us. I have friends who work in Westminster who were not inconvenienced at all, the tubes were all operational throughout. I have friends who cycle who found it more pleasant to commute through the blockades, where there was less pollution and dangerous traffic.

      The general public are always welcome, many civil servants came to listen to speeches and have some curry on their lunch breaks, suited up. One concern I have is with the police love bombing which has alienated many BAME and working class people, but that’s being criticised internally and I’m confident things will change on this issue!

      Reply

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