We cried ‘We Are Peaceful’ as They Beat us to the Ground
12 OCT | Brussels, Belgium
Police confronting Olivier de Schutter, UCL professor and former UN special rapporteur on the right to food. Credit: Francois Dvorak
Scenes of violence shook the European capital as over 400 peaceful protesters were brutally arrested. Using water cannons, pepper-spray, batons and shields, police tore through a crowd of approximately 1000 people, wounding and traumatizing with an air of mockery and spite.
This is without doubt the most striking display of aggression that we’ve seen thus far, as well as being the biggest mass arrest in XR’s short history.
The protest, part of #RoyalRebellion, took place on Koningsplein near the royal palace. (One of the family, at least, is already convinced:Princess Esmeralda was arrested with us in London earlier this week). At around 2pm, rebels occupied the square in true XR style. They brought flags, musical instruments and good intentions. They even brought a boat.
At around 5pm the police began to move in, and by 6.30pm it was all over. In the space of an hour and a half, hundreds of people were pepper-sprayed in the face, including a 2-year-old girl. The police used the water cannon three times, pummelling the seated protesters with ice-cold water. They wrestled non-violent rebels to the ground, pressing their heads into the cobbles, and they laughed as they did it.
Many of the rebels suffered panic and anxiety attacks as they lay shivering on the ground waiting to be led to the vans.
Of the 435 arrests, 118 were released from the police station after an ID check, the other 317 were held until 3am and dropped off at random locations around the city, distressed and unable to get home as there was no public transport available.
It’s difficult to articulate how shocking these reports are. Our hearts go out to all of those directly or indirectly affected; and our compassion must also extend to those on the other side of this violence: captives themselves of a system bigger than any individual.
No words can say it better than those of the Belgium rebels who, even while they were being dragged to the ground and beaten, were still chanting: ‘We love you. We are peaceful. We do this for your children.’
Prague Rebels Stick to the Plan
12 OCT | Prague, Czech Republic
130 rebels were detained by Czech police on Saturday when they lay down on a pedestrian crossing in the centre of Prague and blocked afternoon traffic.
Police reacted quickly, and some rebels who were glued-on suffered minor injuries – their hands torn off the tarmac by officers with no experience of this kind of protest.
The blockade fell on the same day as the funeral of Karel Gott, a singer so popular in the country that it was declared a day of national mourning. Asked why they did not call off the protest, rebels said: “Karel Gott lived a long and rich life and died peacefully in his sleep. This is something that we and our children may not get”.
12-13 OCT | Amsterdam
Rebels in Amsterdam were active across three different sites this weekend, with at least 160 rebels arrested.
Police were unable to prevent 300 rebels from dragging a yellow boat to the center of Blauwbrug bridge, which was blocked for several hours, disrupting tram, road and water traffic. Rebels stood side by side, holding their ground to remind us of our collective power in the face of an existential threat.
When rebels were finally dispersed, after several hours, many were taken away by bus to the outskirts of the city.
This did not, however, prevent Dutch rebels from rounding things off with an eye-grabbing projection in the city centre!
Grief March sees 20,000+ swamp Oxford Street
12 – 13 OCT | London, UK
London hosted an array of brilliant actions over the weekend, but by far the largest and most eye-catching was the Extinction March: a sombre and highly imaginative funeral procession that allowed rebels to grieve for the ongoing ecocide. The march drew a crowd of more than 20,000 people, despite near continuous rain, and brought Oxford Street to a standstill for several hours.
The procession included the work of more than 80 different XR arts & culture groups, with highlights including an aquarium’s worth of skeleton sea life, a giant human skull, a jazz funeral band, and a dodo sign saying ‘Wake up before we dodo’.
In another major action of the weekend, hundreds gathered outside New Scotland Yard to protest the reprehensible police tactic of confiscating wheelchairs and other vital equipment needed by disabled rebels to stay safe.
Elsewhere, theDoctors of XR laid 110 pairs of shoes on the steps of Trafalgar Square to represent the number of lives taken every day in the UK because of uncontrolled air pollution. Scientists declared support for Non-Violent Direct Action against the UK Government for its inaction over the climate crisis. And Greta’s speech was projected rather impressively onto the Houses of Parliament, alongside indigenous activists.
In Trafalgar Square, there was a solidarity action with the Ecuadorian people, who are currently being shot and run over by their own police as they protest against their government’s brutal austerity measures. Across the Square, XR children gave a moving performance of their song ‘SOS from the Kids’.
French rebels show what real democracy looks like
OCT 12 | Assemblée Nationale, Paris, France
After having set up camp for five days in the heart of Paris, cycled to the Arc de Triomphe and co-occupied the Italie 2 shopping centre with the Yellow Vests, it was time for French rebels to directly speak to those in power by demonstrating outside the French National Assembly.
When rebels sat down directly in front of the assembly, which is forbidden to any demonstration, police pushed them to the neighboring bridge, and trapped them there for 7 hours with a police cordon. Rebels held a giant People’s Assembly to show the French government what real democracy looks like.
Some rebels walked along the bridge’s narrow walls to leave, and some even threatened to jump into the Seine – prompting the arrival of two police boats. Rebels still danced and played games, even making the line of police officers smile.
Meanwhile, XR and Youth For Climate France held a sit-in in front of the radio headquarters of Europe 1, until finally the station took a recording of the message they had to share.
Australian rebels get naked and put their heads in the sand
12 – 13 OCT | Australia
In Melbourne, shoppers saw more than they bargained for as the Nudie Parade took to the streets, demonstrating perfectly how to get vulnerable about the crisis. Later in the day, hundreds took part in a ‘mass drown-in’ to draw attention to rising sea levels, which was accompanied by a march, songs and inspiring words from local rebels.
AsCivil Disco-bedience videos enjoy popularity online, Australia’s creative rebellion continues. In Sydney, a group of rebels buried their heads in the sand (brilliant video here) as a demonstration of their government’s denial of the climate and ecological crisis.
A swarming team in Adelaide warm up.
Hundreds of rebels blocked the William Jolly Bridge in Brisbane for 2 hours, resulting in almost 50 arrests. In Tasmania, 9 rebels were arrested at a roadblock, and XR in Adelaide made some noise at their block party with two rebels arrested.
Sunshine and foreboding as Berlin simmers
12 – 13 OCT | Berlin, Germany
After three nights, the 400-rebel blockade was finally cleared from outside the Environment Ministry. The site was of course left spotless.
The camp hosted a discussion for 6 -13 year-olds on ‘How adults should act’. Elsewhere, the Berlin XR Choir took advantage of the extra weekend shoppers to pipe up in the vast Berlin Mall.
Outside art gallery Haus der Kulturen der Welt, a giant wooden whale makes an appearance.
While police were laid back when clearing the camp, the 30 rebels who swarmed a motorway slip road a few hours later received far harsher treatment. Officers issued reprimands and took down rebels’ details. Not far away in Tiergarten Park, rebels held a large afternoon assembly to decide how their actions would develop.
The weekend was a freakishly hot one for Berlin in October, and while the city’s nomadic rebels enjoyed the sunshine, there was also a sense of foreboding. One only had to look up to see the trails of jet planes criss-crossing the clear blue sky.
Five Get Arrested in Dublin
10 – 11 OCT | Dublin, Ireland
In the small hours of Friday, five rebels locked themselves to the Dail parliament building in protest at their government’s approval of the Shannon LNG deal – a deal that will make the country dependent on imported liquified natural gas for up to 50 years!
Rebels formed a blockade around the five lock-ons and it took more than 40 Gardai police and two fire squads to remove them for arrest. Despite the rain, the demonstration was a cheerful and vibrant party that drew in passersby.
Thursday morning saw rebels gluing themselves to the Dublin office of the PR firm Red Flag, whose toxic clients include Monsanto. This was followed by a visit to the Minister of Agriculture with the gift of a native tree to oppose the Sitka tree plantations turning Ireland into an ecological dead zone.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Minister refused to meet the rebels.
XR Youth Slovakia Raise an Empty Glass
7-10 OCT | Bratislava, Slovakia
On Monday, Slovakian rebels toasted the beginning of the Rebellion at their foodless feast. Rebels explained: ‘We wanted to show that, due to the climate and ecological crisis, we might not have any food left by 2050. So cheers to rebelling – it’s our only hope!’
Rebels blocked the entrance to the Ministry of the Economy, using a swarming technique to protest the Ministry’s refusal to respect the Paris Agreement targets.
On Thursday, rebels came together for a spontaneous collective bike lift to celebrate sustainable ways of getting around the city.