It’s been a strange week, unplanned and unexpected. It all started when Louis and Niaomh (my children aged 21 and 30) came home, so I guess they have some responsibility for it all. As always they bring life, friends, dogs, food, stories and fun with a little bit of chaos in the mix.
On Saturday they all set off for Rebellion Day. I stayed home with Sylvie and big dog Bagheera. I felt really torn, I wanted to be there but wasn’t sure if either me or my daughter Sylvie (aged 12) could cope with seeing them arrested. Niaomh wrote my number on her arm with a Sharpie before she left.
We had talked on the Friday evening. I knew the plan was to block the bridges but had no idea how the police would respond. Protests in the past have often become violent and I wondered about kettling and brutal removal.
I watched the day unfold on various different media sources as bridge by bridge was occupied. And finally they did it! I was amazed. And the footage showed peace and humour and positivity. I felt proud of them all and moved and thankful.
Then came the text that I had been both expecting and dreading “Heya Im, Niaomh got arrested and is at Charing Cross. She’s all good and with a friend but we might be back a bit late….” (13.01)
I was surprised by my initial reaction. Calm. What can I usefully do?
Tried ringing Charing Cross police station but there was no-one answering. Tried the Metropolitan Police non-emergency numbers and choosing the ‘in custody’ option got a recorded message saying they don’t give out any information about people in custody ‘for legal reasons’. Baffled, surely they are in custody for legal reasons and families and friends have a right to know? Then thought with all the cuts they probably just don’t have the resources to deal with this anyway.
The thing I felt most assured by was that Extinction Rebellion have Wellbeing Volunteers, but more than this, they look after each other. So, there were about 100 people outside Charing Cross police station waiting for Niaomh and other protestors (they were in police stations across London) to be released. They had a small sound system (playing amongst other tracks ‘sound of de police’) and kept each other buoyant.
So, the best thing I could do was walk the dog and make food. Do the Mum thing.
“The tiny comrade is released!” (21.21)
“Hooray! Xxx” (21.22)
They got back after midnight by which time I was in bed, so I had to wait until the morning for their tales.
Niaomh and Adam were on Southwark Bridge. The police were arresting people slowly but surely. At some point someone shouted out that they were only arresting men. They looked round for the ‘gobbiest’ women. Niaomh and her friend Roz were prime candidates. (If you know Niaomh this will not surprise you). My best description of her is she’s big on the inside.
She said she didn’t even know she had been arrested. She thought she was just chatting with the policeman and then he said that she had to go with him as he’d actually been reading to her, her rights. She asked if he was going to put handcuffs on her and he said no not unless you’re violent. Are you going to be violent? No, she said.
She decided instead to use the weapon of charm. All in all, she said the police were great. When she was released they were chatting and laughing with her and fascinated by the piece of turf with the XR logo that she had been wearing and they returned it to her. She said perhaps this is the best way to reach people, to get them to at least consider what you are trying to say.
I have been thinking for a long time about our relationship with the planet and with each other. The IPCC report in October was a wake up call, but to what? I didn’t know what to do. I had fantasies of running off to join Greenpeace (if they’d have me), but I have home, work, a 12 year old and a small dog (Betty), friends and a community. Commitments and responsibilities, but also things I love and care about.
I have never been a joiner, but nothing in my life has ever made more sense to me than this, now. We either have to find ways to change, to evolve, to live better, to care more, to share, or we will become extinct, and in our death throes we will take out the living planet and the myriad of beings we share it with.
As a species we are irrepressibly curious, creative, caring, innovative, experimental, active, social and yet our flip side is destructive, brutal, fearful and greedy. But we have a super power – choice. I don’t believe that any being could truly choose global destruction but I could be wrong (any Darth Vaders out there?). It’s time to wake up and it’s time to choose and the clock is ticking.
Yesterday the news was more Brexit. Theresa May spoke of ‘a brighter future’. The disconnect is criminal. What future?