Tens of thousands have taken environment protests to a new level with the Extinction Rebellion reaching 33 countries in recent weeks.
Organisers claimed it is a chance for people to make their voices heard, and a chance to get together and celebrate their love for life on earth. And now, the tactics used could inspire a new wave of radical protest.
Campaigners have focused on a series of non-violent and peaceful acts of rebellion. This ‘festival of creative resistance’ included art actions, stage performances, talks, workshops, food and family spaces.
The campaign opened at Parliament Square, London, with a colourful display of flags and banners created by regional working groups around the country. Their display symbolised the Rebellion’s demand that a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice is created.
Other protests on major traffic hot spots Oxford Street and Waterloo Bridge called on government to declare a climate emergency, halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gasses to zero by 2025.
Attendees were also addressed by Gretna Thunberg, a 16-year-old environmental activist from Sweden, who helped to found the School Strike for Climate movement last year. Thunberg gave a rousing speech to thousands of people gathered in Marble Arch. She said:
Humanity is now standing at a cross-roads. We must now decide which path to take.
We are the ones making a difference. We, the people of the Extinction Rebellion and the children in the schools who are striking for the climate, we are the ones making a difference.
The success of the Extinction Rebellion has now led to others to call for other Rebellions against unpopular government policies.
In the UK, campaigner Alex Tiffin has called for a Welfare Rebellion to protest against the impact of austerity.
He wants to bring together a movement to object to the Westminster government’s imposition of “Universal Credit.” The new system has been accused of cutting off benefits to disabled people, making people homeless and imposing penalties which have even led to suicides.
Welfare Rebellion would also see protests against rising homelessness and food poverty, which has led to a surge in the use of food banks, where poorer citizens can claim free food donated by charities, supermarkets and consumers.
While some have criticised the Extinction Rebellion as merely a stunt, the impact of direct action on the UK has been felt with businesses and commuters disrupted by the scale of the demonstration. With campaigners feeling bolder and more confident at the impact of people power, the next wave of progressive protest could see even more direct action being taken.