Extinction Rebellion plan to block streets in London, Manchester and Cardiff next week as they call on MPs to back a climate emergency bill and hold a national citizens’ assembly on the crisis.
On Tuesday, five XR groups will block roads leading to parliament as they descend on Westminster to demand MPs back what they call the climate and ecological emergency bill, which they say would speed up the UK’s progress on reducing its carbon emissions.
“The focus will, I think, more than it has been before, be on those institutions of power,” said Anneka Sutcliffe, an XR action coordinator. “We’re really hoping to have a big show of solidarity, especially on that first day around parliament, and then over the course of a couple of weeks we’re hoping to build pressure with our actions.”
The group is also planning a number of protests over the bank holiday weekend and beyond, with banner drops, sit-ins, marches, picnics and roadblocks taking place around the country. The lineup includes a “mad hatter’s tea party” at Gatwick airport to protest against the aviation industry’s carbon footprint, and a plan to block Prince Street bridge in Bristol with a giant elephant.
In Birmingham on Friday, more than 150 activists attended Eastside City Park and marched to the headquarters of HS2 to demonstrate against its construction. Many dressed up as wildlife to highlight the biodiversity lost as a result of tree felling from builders.
“I don’t think it’s right to call a project sustainable after you cut 108 ancient woodlands,” said Verel Rodrigues, 25, part of Midlands Extinction Rebellion and one of the organisers of Stop HS2, “I just don’t see how this project is viable and how they can push this green-washing agenda to everyone.”
Verel, a previous mechanical engineering student, was a supporter of HS2 after meeting a director of HS2 at his university, but soon became disillusioned.
“I found research explaining how the project wouldn’t be carbon-neutral for 120 years. When I saw that I was shocked, because this is something HS2 has never told anyone about.
“I fell for that, unfortunately, and it was only in February this year when I started to realise how bad HS2 was that I started to raise awareness and get involved with the campaign,” he said.
In Wales there are plans to protest outside the Senedd and in Cardiff Bay over rising sea levels, while in Manchester protesters will occupy a space in the city centre.
There will also be a national day of action focused on HS2 on 4 September, with protests in London, Manchester and along the planned rail line.
A previous rebellion planned for April was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, and XR said it was encouraging all protesters to maintain social distancing, wear gloves and a mask, and bring hand sanitiser. An online event dubbed Digital Rebellion will take place for those who would prefer to get involved from home.
Paul Stephens, part of XR’s police liaison team, said the group had received a letter from police warning them that organisers of gatherings of more than 30 people risked a GBP10,000 fine under coronavirus restrictions.
“It’s a vague threat over coming out to protest about such a serious thing as extinction,” he said. “It’s playing a political game. We’re going to challenge that as we go forward.”
The group said it hoped to avoid relations with police breaking down like they did in October 2019 when XR protests were banned in London.
On Wednesday one of XR’s co-founders, Roger Hallam, was part of a group detained and charged with conspiracy to cause criminal damage. Since founding XR, Hallam has formed a separate direct action group called Beyond Politics.
He was remanded in custody until 22 September along with four others, three of whom were definitely connected to XR, a group spokeswoman said.