XR France – Sur le Pont, Solidarity
28 JUN | Pont de Sully, Paris, France
At the 45°C peak of a record-breaking heatwave, French rebels peacefully occupied a bridge in Paris. They intended to spend the day singing, dancing and learning; instead, they suffered a brutal response from the police. The protestors were sitting and singing with their hands in the air when the police began to spray tear gas in their faces at point-blank range (be warned, the footage is quite upsetting) and drag them onto the pavement.
The French rebels responded with courage and steadfast nonviolence – see here for a moving account of the day – but also a certain amount of resignation. To many this was nothing new for protesters in France, and they didn’t expect much sympathy or even attention from the larger world.
But in this case, business did not go as usual. Videos of the action circulated rapidly on social media, shocking and distressing people in the global XR community and beyond. Greta Thunberg’s post of the action has over 3.5 million views. The XR global community responded with outrage and love, flooding French rebels with messages of support, and organising a flurry of solidarity actions outside French embassies in various countries, from London to New York, Copenhagen to Vienna to Istanbul. (In a sombre compounding of repressions, five Turkish rebels were arrested without apparent justification outside the French embassy in Istanbul.)
New York City solidarity action
This international outcry spurred on a vigorous debate in France. The Interior Minister Christope Castaner called for answers, an official inquiry was launched, and there was a media furore, in which police chiefs were hauled onto panels to be questioned by members of government and XR France alike. French rebels staged another actionone week later, announcing a campaign to encourage the media to report more on XR’s ecological message, and less on its tactics.
Given the backlash, will French police do things differently next time? Either way, we’ll know all about it. XR UK, in its letter to the French Embassy, pledged to send its members in support of the next such French action: “The next time Parisian police deploy tear gas on this movement’s peaceful protesters, they can expect to find rebels from Britain sitting in solidarity alongside their French brothers and sisters. We may come from different countries, but we will lay down our bodies for one planet”.
We can only assume that many XR branches share this stirring solidarity. We’ll let you know here as soon as France plans another action along these lines!
Rebel Rebel, Glastonbury
26 – 30 JUN | Glastonbury Festival, UK
Amid the partying and music, there was a palpable atmosphere of ecological awareness at this year’s Glastonbury Festival. From the single-use plastic ban, to the appearance of David Attenborough on the Pyramid stage, to the unprecedentedly clean fields at the end of the festival, most of the 250,000-person attendance seemed to be on board with the messages to ‘love the farm’ and ‘leave no trace’.
Glastonbury Festival has a long history of giving a platform to social and environmental groups — formerly CND and now Greenpeace, Oxfam and Water Aid — and for providing space for alternative and ecological ideas.
This year Extinction Rebellion joined this list, bringing its energy, love, vision, art and creativity to the party. XR had a visible presence throughout the festival and a ‘Rebel Rebel’ tent in the Green Futures field. Its programme included talks on the climate emergency and what to do about it, internationalist solidarity and non-violent direct action training.
On Thursday afternoon, XR, Greenpeace and the Wisdom Keepers took to the Park stage. The speeches were hosted by musician, Dizraeli, and included addresses from Ecuadorian shaman Kurikindi, XR’s Dr Gail Bradbrook and Greenpeace activist Rosie Rogers. The Wisdom Keepers said prayers for the Earth and called in the wisdom of their indigenous ancestors. You can hear more about this on the XR Glastonbury Special podcast.
Thousands of festival-goers then followed a recreated pink ‘Tell the Truth’ boat on a procession through the festival to the sacred space: stone circle field. Here, the afternoon culminated in the making of the largest ever human Extinction symbol. This truly was a coming together, a movement of movements joining forces to rise up and rebel. It was incredible and heartening to see XR reaching out to so many new faces and Glastonbury festival putting so much emphasis on the climate emergency.
Meidän veremme, Our Blood
30 JUN | Kansalaistori, Helsinki, Finland
Here’s a beautiful video of the ‘Our Blood’ action, as performed by Helsinki rebels.
Cambridge Streets for Life
6 JUL | Cambridge, England
This Saturday, Cambridge rebels reclaimed the streets for life. Several busy roads were blocked from eight in the morning to five in the afternoon, creating a vibrant community hub in space normally given over to cars. The event featured a pop-up garden, a freecycle stall, a ‘Rebel University’ hosting talks about the climate crisis and a tennis court on Tennis Court Road. Game, set, loved by all!
The taster has left many excited for the possibility of a permanently car-free Cambridge. Rebel Nathan Williams said, “We’ll be harnessing the incredible energy we saw today to make sure that the authorities have heard us and cannot dodge the issues any longer. Authorities across Cambridge have declared a climate and biodiversity emergency. They must now act on those words. With courage and will anything is possible.” With that drive, it shouldn’t be long until the Streets for Life are here for life.
Exploring XR: Northern Ireland
In the first of what we plan to be a series of explorations highlighting the many local successes, challenges and quirks experienced by our members all over the world, we caught up with XR Northern Ireland.
XR NI is a relatively new group, but they’ve been hard at work arranging Critical Mass bike rides, open meetings and disruptive actions to raise awareness of corporate plans to drill and mine almost a third of the country. This corporate rapacity stems in part from a different legal terrain from the rest of the UK; but the terrain of resistance is no less special, with close cooperation between XR and other groups to fight these plans. Read the full story here!
Photo by Anthony Jarman: Carmen Declares a Crime scene at Italian fossil fuel giant Eni
Local groups continue to pour their incredible energy and creativity into actions. In the UK, rebels had a Carmen-inspired operatic procession, put on their own plastic-themed tennis match outside Wimbledon (squid vs plastic ‘naive’ bottle), strapped on their pink wings in Swansea for the Wales Air Show, and staged a medieval atonement ritual for climate sins.
Portland, OR action
XR Global has had another active fortnight, with die-ins, blockades and lock-ons a-plenty! There’s so much happening now that we only have room to summarise, but you can read about it all in greater detail here!
Latin America has seen its rebellion stepping up a notch, with Argentinian rebels successfully disrupting a speech from the Secretary of the Environment on live TV(!), and two die-ins from rebels in Chile. We were big fans of a banner-drop in Melbourne, and happy to hear about a gathering in Ghana.
European rebels have been busy, as ever: XR Spain was part of a strikingly successful alliance against car emissions; in France we saw an 11-hour blockade of Amazon HQ; Irish rebels were in turn blocking a government building, and were earlier disrupting the Irish open. Belgian rebels in particular have had a lot going on: a brilliant TV disruption, a shocking clampdown by police, protests at the EU summit, and a weekly ‘Critical Mass’ bike disruption.
And it’s possible Scandinavia takes the ecological cake for this week, with a beautiful bloodbath in Finland, a brilliant protest at the Norwegian Parliament, and a blockade of Malmö airport in Sweden!
Decentralisation is a key element of XR’s ethos. We’re eager to celebrate all the amazing actions that take place in local groups across the world. Please email us your story and most exciting photo to firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Story Contribution’ in the subject line.