My weekend with Extinction Rebellion

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Image Credit: Creative Commons: Julia Hawkins

By Tyrone Scott

This passing bank holiday weekend, I felt it was
important to attend the protests launched by Extinction Rebellion in the
name of preserving our planet and species. As a member of the Young
Greens Executive Committee, I am passionate about the environment and
was keen to get involved. I left my house early Friday morning to travel
to Parliament Square, little did I know I would still be on Waterloo
Bridge singing my heart out at 4AM Sunday morning!

The power of love

I have been involved in many protests in my young
life, but I have rarely seen anything so well organised, so effective
and so purely wholesome as this. From the first moment I stepped onto
Parliament Square to the second I left Marble Arch the resounding
feeling I felt was love. Love for our planet. Love for my fellow
demonstrators. But most importantly, love for every human being on this

Whether that be the few counter-protesters or the
police trying to break us up, the important theme was that we showed
love to everyone who approached us. With this approach, you avoid the
pitfalls of isolating people who are not yet on board, and nothing is
achieved if a significant portion of society feels isolated, and
Extinction Rebellion identified and managed this to perfection.

Preventing shut down

I saw hundreds of arrests, from activists braver than
I, yet the chants “We love the police” and “Who’s police, Our police!”
continued to ring out until the moment I left the protest. What
Extinction Rebellion understands is that the police are not the problem
in this scenario, even if they are the facilitators for the will of the

What else Extinction Rebellion expertly did was make
all zones alcohol and drug free. Whilst some people in attendance quite
rightly fancied an ice cold can of beer in the blazing heat, everyone
understood that we did not need to give the police, the right-wing press
or anybody else an excuse. An excuse to shut us down. An excuse to
demonise us. Or an excuse to not take us seriously.

The clear out

I spent Saturday daytime with the remaining activists
on Oxford Circus, many of whom were arrested as the police scrambled to
clear the junction. I watched in awe as the police used a vast array of
power tools to try and free the activists who had managed to completely
secure themselves to the concrete floor. The smell rising through the
air of burnt tarmac. Sparks flying off the ground as they saw through
the locks. Dozens of police surrounding each peaceful activist secured
to the floor. This felt absolutely surreal against the backdrop of
thousands of shoppers, giant brands and luxury cars. It was incredible.

Eventually, the police cleared the square however not
without igniting the wrath of the protesters with some unashamedly
non-environmentally friendly decisions. A large rubbish truck enters the
Oxford Circus junction and all of the sleeping bags, duvets, cardboard
boxes and everything else was unceremoniously discarded without a
moments thought as to what could be recycled. If you could choose one
crowd you would not want to watch that, it would be a large crowd of
environmental activists.

As the sun went down, I moved to Waterloo Bridge for
one of the most powerful evenings I have had the privilege to
experience. With knowledge the police were looking to reclaim the
bridge, hundreds of activists descended for an evening of music, talks
and togetherness. A candlelit vigil was held whilst talented musicians
played beautiful music on a wide range of interesting instruments
against a backdrop of dozens of Police.

As the skatepark was dismantled, fairy lights taken
down, trees torn up, we sang. As the fire brigade came to sturdy up the
truck, so the police can cut protesters down to carry them away, we
sang. No matter what negativity they tried to throw our way, to dampen
our spirits, we simply sang.

It was clear by the end of the night the police did
not expect this sheer determination and resilience from and it was
evident the bridge was not being cleared tonight. Victory, for now. And
yes, the bridge was cleared the following day, but not without a fight.

The morning after

Sunday brought more magic as hundreds marched from
Parliament Square through to Marble Arch. A funeral procession with
activists dressed in black, brass band in tow, led the rebellion forward
as we marched past Buckingham Palace right into Marble Arch where Greta
Thunberg delivered her rousing and inspirational speech. After days of
activism, much walking and losing my voice completely, I thought I would
take Sunday night to myself. Of course, my favourite band Massive
Attack played a impromptu show, of which I then missed, so we are not
going to talk about that.

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