Extinction Rebellion meets COP26

A cordon to sustainability. Extinction Rebellion protests 23.08.21 between Covent Garden and Leicester Square train stations.

What is Extinction Rebellion? And what can you expect over the course of COP26 as the police promise the most highly intensive operation in Britain?

There were drummers, whistle blowers and chanters all uniting in a powerful, dance display of peaceful unrest.

I consider myself an environmentalist. I am deeply concerned about the climate and I am a vegetarian. But I am also a university student outside the green bubble. So until recently I had not heard of Extinction Rebellion and had no idea what the purpose of the group really was.

Extinction Rebellion is an environmental movement who advocate non-violent civil disobedience to encourage the government to take more action in avoiding the climate change tipping point. It will be one of the major grassroot activist groups attending the COP26 conference now taking place in Glasgow.

My first experience with one of their events was during the two weeks of protests in August 2021. My feelings were of excitement with a generous side order of apprehensive anxiety.

Peacefully

On Monday 23rd August, thousands of protesters gathered peacefully in London's theatre district between Leicester Square and Covent Garden stations, demanding the government finally takes action 20 years after NASA warned us of the climate crisis as we reach the limit of the tipping point.

Stepping off the train, it wasn’t too long until I found my way to where the protest was taking place. I walked to Trafalgar square which was where the protest began. No protesters were to be seen, they must have moved on through another part of London.

Over the noise of the traffic which was accumulating all over, the sound of chanting and singing, drums and tambourines, lead me to find the centre of the protest.

I knew that the event would be full of frustrated protesters who were unhappy with the lack of governmental attention towards helping the climate crisis.

Crisis

I met a queue of figures in red cloaks, with their faces painted white, silently gliding between the protesters and the police.

I later learned that these creatures were the Red Rebel Brigade, a performative activist arts group created as a response to the global environmental crisis.

The movement of the Red Rebel Brigade certainly was a chilling and memorable experience which left me curious to find out who and what their purpose were.

The red cloaks symbolise the common blood that we as humans share with all species and they encourage the movement of acting, feeling and moving as one.

The Red Rebel Brigade will be joined at COP26 by the Blue Rebels, who are Scotland’s version, at Glasgow Central Station in a moving ceremony.

There were drummers, whistle blowers and chanters all uniting in a powerful, dance display of peaceful unrest.

Unrest

From a distance I saw protesters erected a large pink table at the centre with the writing “come to the table”, meaning governmental leaders need to come together and discuss how to avoid the rapidly approaching climate tipping point.

The Extinction Rebellion protesters were wearing earthy colours of greens and browns with most having banners attached to them reading messages such as “stop the harm”, “climate change isn’t going away so neither are we” and “fight the system not your neighbour”.

There were drummers, whistle blowers and chanters all uniting in a powerful, dance display of peaceful unrest.

Campaigners wore the message “act now” and they were demanding an end to investments into fossil fuels. The urgency and desperation of the protesters, based on their desire for the government to make more pro-active decisions, was abundantly clear.

I noticed that the police had gathered at all the roads leading to the table, stopping people from join the protest. They formed a human barricade stopping many protesters from acting upon their freedom of speech and right to protest. This was the first time I had ever seen the police act this way.

Questioned

I found the experience alarming and intimidating. At times police officers would use force to stop people from moving through their lines. I was nervous that if I acted upon my right to protest I could be stopped by the police.

After attempting to find a way through the police cordon at the many roads leading to the protest I stopped by one of the cordons to observe the interactions between the police and some frustrated protesters.

One teenager began to question the police on their reasoning for stopping people from joining the protest. They remained mostly silent as the teenager grew more frustrated and explained that their freedom of speech was being denied.

Meanwhile, earplugs were being handed out to other police officers on duty.

On the outside of the protesting centre several organisations were handing out leaflets, all focusing on more sustainable solutions to our existing issues. These included feeding the homeless hot vegan meals, the benefits of veganism and the importance of the environment to Buddhism and mindfulness.

Educate

The Extinction Rebellion event was informative and educational once you were outside of the police cordon. The activists merely wanted to educate the public about the importance of acting to avoid further catastrophe to the climate crisis.

The global climate summit, COP26, opened in Glasgow yesterday and will continue until Friday, 12 November, after being postponed last year due to Covid-19. Leaders from all over the world will meet to discuss and plan how to tackle the climate crisis.

Extinction Rebellion has planned to protest over the course of the summit through the city of Glasgow. 

The protests will be of a larger scale with the aim of putting pressure on our global leaders to make them plan properly how we can all tackle the climate crisis.

Intensive

More than 10,000 police officers have been deployed at the summit and planned protests, making the event one of the most highly intensive policing operations in Britain.

People from all over the city have advertised their houses on the Human Hotel website to encourage and enable greater participation of people from developing countries.

The Human Hotel is run by the COP26 homestay network and seeks to house people at a lower cost with some houses being free of charge.

The Human Hotel have now provided more than 10,000 nights of affordable accommodation and this has enabled members from developing countries to be housed and therefore attend the summit.

Extinction Rebellion performed a pilgrims’ procession at McLennan Arch last Saturday. The protesters dressed in indigo, blue and light green walked in groups to raise awareness of the climate crisis and demand a fair deal at COP26 for the Global South.

All over Glasgow yesterday Extinction Rebellion activists were raising their banners for climate justice in anticipation for all meeting of all the world leaders.

I would encourage anyone near Glasgow who is concerned about the climate crisis to join them. 

Schedule

01.11.21 - Raise banners for climate justice (all over Glasgow)

03.11.21 - Greenwash march (Buchanan Gallery Steps at 12:00-15:00)

05.11.21 - COP26 strike for climate justice (a march from Kelvingrove to George Square at 11:00am)

06.11.21 - Global day of action (all over Kelvingrove park with varying assembly points for each group ranging from Youth Strikers to Extinction Rebellion, at 12:00 for a 12:45 start)

07.11.21 - Africa drillers = northern killer's (https://t.me/joinchat/U_DbDBq3diZjODg0)

07.11.21 - 10.11.21 - People's summit for climate justice (join in online from anywhere in the world, or in-person in Glasgow)

11.11.21 - Refugee Justice March (Kenmure St - HO)

12.11.21 - Armadillo Die (Necropolis)

This author

Ruby Harbour is the editorial assistant at The EcologistThe overview of events can be found in a table with more details at Main events at COP26 – XR Scotland

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