These Items Represent the Extinction Rebellion Protests

Every movement has its visual signifiers. Here are XR's.
April 25, 2019, 12:18pm
Extinction Rebellion protesters in London
Extinction Rebellion protesters. Photo: Chris Bethell

Today at 5PM, Extinction Rebellion are calling their big London shutdown to a close. For the past week-and-a-bit, the radical climate change protesters have been camped out throughout the city, shutting down Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge, Parliament Square and Marble Arch with their huge pink boat, their trucks, their hay bales and their bikes, to the ire of anyone with a Spectator subscription. But for now, that's all coming to a close.


In a statement, the group said: "We will leave the physical locations, but a space for truth-telling has been opened up in the world. The truth is out, the real work is about to begin. The international rebellion continues. It is now time to go back into our communities, whether in London, around the UK or internationally. This movement is not just about symbolic actions, but about building the necessary resilient and regenerative culture that the world needs now. Expect more actions very soon."

Like any "movement" – punks, Occupy demonstrators, climate change protesters who, in a roundabout way, believe getting themselves arrested will save the planet – this one has had its very own visual signifiers. While we wait out XR's hiatus, here's a quick rundown of what to look out for upon their return.


extinction rebellion bicycles

Photos: Chris Bethell

This whole protest exercise was BYOB: bring your own bike. Turning up in a car wouldn't make you many friends; this wasn't a Clarkson-friendly crowd, for obvious reasons. Plus, cycling away from – or directly into – the police is a lot more effective than tripping over your own feet.


extinction rebellion protest

As much as XR attracted a cohort of monthly railcard commuters, freshly awoken to the threat of climate change, it is also a climate movement, meaning: crusties. So: lots of white people with dreadlocks, juggling pins, a "soil therapy" bag (a bag of soil you put your hands into, for therapy?) and all the usual stuff that sounds like it belongs in a game of Brighton Beach Bingo.


However, according to photographer Chris, XR wasn't merely a hippy thing: "There was certainly a crusty element to it, but that wasn't the main demographic."



These two pictures are related. That rope attached to the coffin is the one holding up the hammock. Says Chris: "The tactic of the whole thing was that the police can't arrest whoever's in the coffin, because the person in the hammock will fall off and die."



Hanging around in Oxford Circus might be a great place to develop serious respiratory problems, but for all its noxious airborne chemicals, it's seriously lacking in plug sockets and public toilets. So, protesters came armed with solar-powered chargers, wood, saws and hinges, to build toilets, complete with an eco-friendly waste-disposal system and a "TOILETS ARE FOR NIGHT SHIFTS ONLY" sign.



It's one thing to reject fast fashion; it's another thing entirely to buy your entire wardrobe from those gazebos at Glastonbury run by women who beat Goop to the crystal thing by a good 30 years.



Lots of these about. But why? A visually-arresting protest beacon? An accurate representation of what we'll look like in 2030 if we don't take the climate change threat seriously? Loads of Tim Burton fans staffing the crafts department? It is literally anyone's guess.



Fighting the man involves a lot of sitting around, so this stuff was necessary. I didn't note down the entire catalogue of Books For Rebels, but from zooming in I can see that one is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – a fixture of anarchist bookshops the world over.







The circle in the XR symbol represents the planet, while the hourglass inside is a reminder that we’re running out of time. As if it wasn't obvious enough, we have limited time to save the planet.

Plastering this stuff everywhere might not be the most proactive thing you can do to halt climate change, but if you don’t fancy being the guy up in the tree hammock, or the one keeping him alive, getting a couple of XR pins and sticking some stickers around is not be a bad start.