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Extinction Rebellion, London 2021

Extinction Rebellion, London 2021. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

As the climate emergency deepens, Extinction Rebellion have once again occupied the streets of London to demand action, reports Jamal Elaheebocus

Several thousand people gathered in Trafalgar Square on the 230th anniversary of the Haitian Revolution for the beginning of Extinction Rebellion’s two-week “Impossible Rebellion”, which is seeking to make “the politically impossible inevitable”.

XR have two weeks of marches, occupations and talks planned across the country for the next two weeks, to demand that governments take serious action to tackle the climate crisis. The main demand of this latest rebellion is to stop all new fossil fuel investment immediately.

Protesters in Trafalgar Square waved XR flags and chanted “Extinction Rebellion” in between speeches from various XR activists. Speakers spoke about the need to end investment in fossil fuels, an industry which accounts for almost 90% of all emissions, and many noted the disproportionate effect the climate crisis is having and will continue to have on poorer countries, which often are countries which have been devastated by colonialism.

There were a wide range of people on the demo, with activists from various XR branches across the country present alongside many young people and families.

The demonstration in Trafalgar Square was largely a ploy to draw in the police, while activists set up a roadblock on the busy roundabout at Long Acre near Covent Garden involving a four-metre-high pink table structure, which shut off all traffic around it and will remain in place for the next fortnight.

After the speeches in Trafalgar Square, protesters marched to the roadblock, shutting off roads around Trafalgar Square. The mood was lively, with drummers playing and people chanting and singing.

Protesters then surrounded the structure, which activists were chained to, successfully keeping the police out. More speeches and performances were given at the structure.

There was a heavy police presence in Trafalgar Square, along the march and particularly surrounding the roadblock in Covent Garden. Nine people had already been arrested by the time the Trafalgar Square demo began, according to the speakers, and more and more police were arriving in Covent Garden.

The latest rebellion follows the publication of the IPCC report, which declared unequivocally that human action is dramatically and irreversibly changing the climate. The rebellion also comes at a time where extreme weather events are occurring across the world, from heatwaves and wildfires in the US, Greece and Turkey to flooding seen in Belgium, France, Germany and other countries in Europe.

These events have demonstrated the urgent need for serious action to tackle the climate crisis, such as the shutdown of the fossil fuel industry, investment in renewable energy and other sustainable industries, and a much faster transition to net zero carbon emissions.

While the rebellion is undoubtedly much-needed action against a government which refuses to take serious action on the climate crisis, there was little mention of the crucial role which capitalism plays in creating and exacerbating the climate crisis.

It is the endless, unregulated growth inherent to capitalism which has led to increased greenhouse gas emissions and the destruction of the environment at such a rapid pace. Failing to identify this as the core cause will potentially limit the movement’s ability to challenging the ruling class’s refusal to tackle the crisis.

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