What is the Extinction Rebellion protest in central London all about? A Wanstead climate campaigner explains
- Credit: Archant
More than 400 protestors have been arrested in the Extinction Rebellion protests that have brought areas of central London to a standstill. A Wanstead campaigner among them tells the Recorder what the purpose of all this disruption is.
“I am very sorry - I don’t like disrupting people’s lives but it is because nothing else is working.”
That is response of protestor Anna Munro to those critical of the tactics of climate campaigners Extinction Rebellion (XR).
“It is not meant to be an attack on individuals but a message to government.”
She added: “Recycling and cutting down use of cars in London alone is not working.
“It’s the job of individuals but more than that it’s the job of people in power.”
The Recorder spoke to the former Wanstead High School pupil, now living in Wales, to better understand the groups’ aims.
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Anna, 37, has been camping out in a tent in Marble Arch for the last four days and said she narrowly avoided arrest yesterday, April 17, as she padlocked herself to a giant pink boat in Oxford Circus emblazoned with the words “Tell the Truth”.
“They went to arrest me but I had super glued my hand to the floor,” she said.
Fortunately the floor had been “pretty wet” so the glue did not really last for very long, she added.
Anna joined XR in March this year after attending a talk at her local group in Cardigan.
The group argues that humankind is in the midst of the “sixth mass extinction”, with human kind facing a “direct existential threat” as 200 species are lost everyday.
Scientists estimate the extinction rate is between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than if humans were not around, according to the World Wildlife Foundation.
“I was completely blown away and horrified to find out how bad the situation really is,” she said.
Anna explained that XR has three main demands to ward off humanity’s extinction.
“The first is to ‘tell the truth’,” she said. “We want governments to work with relevant institutions to provide awareness about what is actually happening.”
“The second is to have zero carbon emissions and zero biodiversity loss by 2025.”
“The third is to have a citizens’ assembly to decide on the response to how we tackle climate change and biodiversity loss.”
She explained it as a “form of democracy which includes everyday people” and has previously been used in Ireland and Spain, as well as during the Occupy movement and in the Arab Spring.
Despite the high number of arrests, Anna describes the police as being “very respectful – they have not been very violent. It has been very positive.”
She added: “The more people they arrest, the more solidarity and defiance we feel and the more people are willing to sit down with us and say ‘we are not going to move.’”
Also among the protestors were eight members of the newly formed activist group Wanstead Climate Action, who took part in the blockades of Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge with a bright orange banner spanning half of Oxford Street.
The group’s Kathy Taylor said: “I was leafleting down Marble Arch and people were very supportive.
“There were lots of tourists and some may have felt that we were disrupting their holidays but generally people were very supportive.”
The group held a talk entitled “Heading to Extinction” last month which was oversubscribed.
She said they will be running it again at a date to be announced shortly.
Wanstead Village Labour Councillor Paul Donovan (Lab) welcomed the protests and said that Redbridge Council is preparing to table a climate emergency motion.
“Climate change, loss of biodiversity and the pollution epidemic are threatening the very ecosystem on which we all depend,” he said.
“The time for action is now, which is something we are trying to do in Wanstead with the environmental charter and more widely in Redbridge with our efforts to raise the climate emergency.”
The Wanstead environmental charter aims to bring together Redbridge Council, businesses, schools and residents to make the community greener.
To get involved in Wanstead Climate Action join their Facebook group or email email@example.com