Extinction Rebellion Protesters Reflect On Their Campaign
"I was totally on a higher vibration, being connected to nature and stuff. This has been a massive hug."
Photo: Chris Bethell
Yesterday, Extinction Rebellion's London demonstrations came to a close. After nearly two weeks of arrests, drums, dhal and climate change-orientated disruption, they're bowing out for now, having attracted a landslide of media attention, celebrity endorsement and political interest.
I asked some of the protesters camping out at Marble Arch how they thought the action had gone.
Responses have been lightly edited for length.
"I think the protests have been remarkable, inspiring. I think we've shown we can make an impact. I've been surprised at how much attention we've gained – national media, even the Parliament figures responding... though we'll have to see what comes of that, and we'll keep an eye on them and hold their hands to the fire.
"Like everyone here, I'm concerned about the climate and loss of ecosystems – these things keep us alive, and we need to change most things to have an enjoyable future and to actually survive. This has been a real opportunity to show the world that. It's a very interesting time: a time of crisis, but also, humans are amazing, so it's a time of opportunity also – to put things right and to stop putting up with parts of the system that we don't want and can't live with anymore.
"From here, I also feel people will go to their own communities with a lot of inspiration, ideas and energy, and will keep things going – regenerative work – as well as the protests, which is an important balance."
Sustaina Claus, Low Carbon Panda and Roger the Reality Rooster
"Well, it's all about waking up. We're facing a threat to humanity that humanity has never experienced before. But people are asleep. I'm here for the children, mainly, and they seem to get it.
"From our perspective, it's been totally non-violent and non-confrontational – well, we've confronted the buses and cars to keep them from moving. But we've not been against anybody: we're protecting everyone's future. But some people see us as a bunch of dirty hippies. I am a little bit dirty, but it's because I've been out here defending the world for a couple of weeks. This has been very good for our value to society too.
"This is very much the early days – the days where Roger the Reality Rooster is on duty to tell people to wake up. The politicians haven't really responded. A few have come out in Parliament Square and a few have received some letters, supposedly. They're playing a game of 'if we acknowledge these people we have to do something; if we don't really acknowledge these people we can concentrate on Brexit and other diversions which take away from the real problems', because the real problems, like oil subsidies, put money in their pockets."
"I walked here from Brighton, via the meridian line. I was on the pilgrimage. It took eight days and we stayed at churches all along the way. I really tapped into the world and nature again. Getting to London made me sad, because the trees were suffocating – it was really amazing.
"I was totally on a higher vibration, being connected to nature and stuff. This has been a massive hug. It feels like everyone here has been asking for this, and that all our journeys have to lead us to this point. Everybody is incredible and I've learned so much from them within this loving connection. It's also all-accepting and encompassing – we're celebrating and helping Mother Earth.
"I have enjoyed the love and respect between everyone here, rather than the animosity and getting arrested. I've just tried to bring pure positivity, love and happiness for the planet. My friends who have been arrested come back and there's a sadness about them, a dip in the energy, which hasn't been nice. But taking them to the music and the drumming has lifted them and everyone is happy again.
"I literally tapped into my druid self and felt so connected to the earth here. We've created such a ripple through London, and even playing these drums, we're sending these vibrations into the soil. I also had a vision when I was in one of the churches: the wings of the cross turned into a rune, which symbolises divine universal protection. It's a white stag. I saw that, and I knew this was right, that our love and energy has been noticed. We have changed things, and all is going to be good."
"It's been inspiring and amazing. People from all walks of life have come together and displayed endless passion and belief for a cause which means so much to me, them and the future. It has been a fantastic ten days.
"The pink boat at Oxford Circus is a memory I'll always have – it became such a symbol. So many people were there also, and the organisation for that idea to manifest is unbelievable. The public's reaction has been a lot more positive than I expected, too – I've not experienced any really negative agro at all, just a few grumps and moans.
"The people getting arrested have also been really moving and inspiring. Lots of people of all age ranges, from 20 to 82. A few of the people from my local group in Oxford were arrested, and they're in their sixties and have had no interaction with the police in their lives before getting picked up and put in the back of a van. Incredible bravery for an essential cause – they're all fantastic.
"Yesterday was particularly memorable: when the barricade came down on Marble Arch and Oxford Street, there was a lady in her sixties who was being picked up by police. They were frisking her, which is standard practice to make sure she's not got a weapon or anything, and she was shaking with nerves to the point where she apologised to the police for making it more difficult for them to arrest her. If that isn't a good protest, I don't know what is."
Councillor Shane Collins ("Leader of the Mendip Green Party, but while I'm with XR I'm one of the coordinators at Marble Arch")
"It's been incredible. I've been involved in a few campaigns over the last 30 years – things like Reclaim the Streets, where we took over a motorway for a day or so, and another smaller site that we claimed for months, but it was all very covert back then. This is completely audacious – there's no secrecy involved. It's basically a numbers game, and by putting it all out there and being bold, we've had more support, and five sites for, well... Marble Arch has been ten days now, madness.
"My affinity group, from Frome, were on Waterloo Bridge, and it was just brilliant. We have an election on the 2nd of May and half our candidates have been arrested! And most of them are in their fifties or older. One of them, Charlie, is 70-odd, and when he got arrested he said to the police, 'This is the most honourable thing I've ever done,' which really sums it all up.
"This site isn't as nice now that the traffic is going again, and trying to sleep was impossible last night with all the cars. Prior to that, when we had the blockades in full swing, I heard birds singing – that can't have happened in decades, which is beautiful. It's the re-wilding of Central London.
"Also, given the 1,000-plus arrests, I have to say that absolutely nobody has been hurt. I'm not the biggest police supporter, but they have been exemplary in dealing with us."
"It's been incredible! It's the largest non-violent protest I've been on, and speaking to all my new friends they've said the same. Everyone has worked together very well and the police have been really understanding. It's been an incredible show of community and humanity.
"Seeing so many different people from all over the world, different professions, ages and beliefs, sitting and cheering with one another has been beautiful. It's a real worldwide community giving their time to something they really believe in. I think the other thing is seeing the arrests that have been made and the people going to that level to be noticed, but still being peaceful and non-violent, is an admirable display of how to change things.
"One was where a lady was on the Marble Arch-Oxford Street blockade, and after it had been removed she just lay in the road and the rain started pouring on us. Everyone gathered, a samba band was playing and we were all applauding her. It was wonderful. Even when the police reluctantly took her away, everyone was waving and cheering and sheltering her with umbrellas as she went to the van. That was really poignant."