Recap on how the final two days of the Impossible Rebellion went down. We did impossibly well.
We did it. After two heart-warming, audacious, thrilling weeks, the Impossible Rebellion ended on Saturday.
We’ve seen some unforgettable moments. We’ve brought junctions at Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Cambridge Circus, Cromwell Road, Long Acre and Covent Garden to a standstill. We replaced these places’ endless urban grind with our urgent message, displaying once again how facing up to ecocide can be scary and sad and inconvenient, but how it can also create the space for colour and joy and togetherness.
And for all their special magic and intensity, these loving occupations were just one species of action on the loose in our disruptive ecosystem. Police used massive numbers, dubious procedure and sometimes outright violence to move us on, but this week we showed we’ve really learned to ‘be like water’.
Occupations repeatedly turned into marches (and marches into occupations!); we’ve seen localised blockades of banks and government departments, marches, rallies, carnivals, fasting, feed-ins, die-ins, sleep-overs in both McDonalds and the Natural History Museum, an occupation of St Paul’s, and exciting new heights of mobilisation by Digital Rebellion.
No description could hope to capture it all. Not just the events but the moments: the lives that were changed, the assumptions challenged, the friendships made. And not just the moments but the actions: the showing up and sometimes thankless (sometimes joyful) taking-part of stewards, litter-pickers, food-providers, infrastructure-sorters, banner-makers, leafletters, de-escalators, arrestee-supporters, and those even less visible than this working on laptops in so many places and ways.
It’s this quiet heroism – along with that seen in the 500 arrests made in these two weeks – which makes XR what it is: not just an organisation, but a movement.
A New York subway station. Yes, this is real.
As thousands reel from Hurricane Ida, and billions deal with drought’s effects on food prices (including millions of Afghans), it’s clear we’re at a pivotal moment in ecological and climate action. And with the next COP getting close both in space and time, it’s a good time to hear everyone from Sky News to LBC to senior government advisers (their scientists were there already) acknowledging that what we’re doing works. Those in power might act fast enough or they might not – but whatever happens, we will know that we did all we could.
Real action needs real rest. Whatever part you’ve played in this latest wave, we hope you’re now able to sleep and play and reconnect as much as you need. This might not be as easy as it sounds – for tips, check out our practical guide for coming down to earth. If you feel you could benefit from emotional support, check out the Trained Emotional Support Network. If you’ve lost something, check out the Lost and Found. And if you’d like to take part in our process of collective reflection, please fill in our post-rebellion survey.
The rebellion does not end here. To find your nearest local group, see here; to see how you can help get ready for Glasgow’s COP26, see here. For a super great video of the last two weeks, see here. And for everything else, read on.
Until next time.
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- Action Highlights
- Humans of XR
A Closing March for Nature
5 AUG | Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park
XR joined together with our sister movements in a jubilant March for Nature on the last day of this phase of rebellion. After speeches at Trafalgar Square, rebels flooded out with gusto to stomp our feet and dance on behalf of all Life. The energy was lively and had a carnival-like feel, with spectacular floats and music buoying our spirits, even as we lamented the close of such a precious time together.
As invigorating as it is to stand together in our collective power, we are also committed to rebelling in regenerative cycles which means we deserve to rest and move into reflection. The march touched down joyfully in the grassy safety of Hyde Park, where speakers were ready and waiting to help ease us out of our intense action phase. Three musicians played live music as the rebels poured in and began to relax on the grass.
But, for at least 30 rebels, the mood was far from relaxing. These brave earth protectors branched off from the main march to cause disruption in a strikingly vulnerable way: each sat in the road on their own blocking the traffic in a Rebellion of One. A single person in the road has a very different feel to a crowd of protestors on a roadblock, and it can often be a very moving sight that engages passers-by in a way that big marches don’t.
You can find out more about RO1 by joining this Telegram chat.
Pretty impressive disruption from a couple of dozen rebels sitting in the road around central London.
In Hyde Park, rebels convened one last time for the Impossible Rebellion’s closing ceremony. Speakers linked our rebellious struggle to the resistance movement around the world and posed the question of what we will take back from this experience to our local communities. There was dancing and singing, and celebratory vibes that spilled out and made their way to a nearby pub.
Rebels descended on one particular pub in great numbers, almost overwhelming the establishment with merriment and outbursts of spontaneous song. At one point, the staff were struggling to get orders to the right tables, with so many hungry rebels, so we helped them out using a reliable system: ‘Mic check!…Pizza number 21!’
And so the Impossible Rebellion ended, with vibrant celebration, with heartfelt song, and with pizza.
Doctors operate on JP Morgan
The moving action brought together doctors, GPs, nurses, psychologists, midwives, occupational therapists and surgeons
On Friday morning sixty healthcare professionals gathered outside JP Morgan in Canary Wharf, bearing a letter for the bank’s CEO. A heavy security presence prevented almost any access to the building, but enterprising doctors nonetheless succeeded in spray-chalking the words ‘code red’ onto every nearby surface; ten glued themselves to the building – with tens more strewn in a die-in on the pavement.
The security response was rough: many rebels were dragged off rapidly, and were left with bruises. Those secured by glue then found themselves obscured by metal screens, apparently kept on hand by JP Morgan staff expressly for covering up embarrassing truths.
The public’s response, though, was much friendlier. Rebels reported lots of positive interactions with passers-by, including a banker from nearby Morgan Stanley coming down to thank those involved for all they were doing.
Once police had arrived to remove the glued rebels, the remaining fifty-ish healthcare professionals moved with their banner to Canary Wharf station, where they continued to invite dialogues with the many financial district workers, once again seeing a largely positive reception.
The group had targeted JP Morgan for its status in a recent report as by far the worst funder of fossil fuels – a status so extreme the report’s authors wrote a special follow-up all about JP Morgan specifically. We hear they’re making a lot of money, though.
Incidentally, this action turned out to be well-timed: on Monday, over 200 health journals – including all of the top-flight publications – published a joint editorial calling for emergency action on climate change. This massive moment in the medical world needed an image to go with it, and for many (including the UN) that image was our doctors outside JP Morgan!
Earth Fast – Day 10
This is Pam from Abingdon. She has been fasting for 10 days, alongside over a hundred rebels in 25 countries around the world who are doing Global Earth Fast. She’s in Parliament Square refusing to eat because she knows how serious the climate and ecological crisis is and she’s terrified.
Pam is demanding the government stop delaying and act decisively on the crisis, and create a citizens’ assembly so we can work out how to survive together. With every voice represented at the table.
The crowd flowed in a steady stream through the City of London. For one Friday afternoon, the most lively conversation was not centred around plans for the weekend, but it was bubbling up outside where a beautiful rebellion was painting the grey soulless streets a vibrant shade of caring.
Many dressed in blue water-themed costumes to draw attention to all the flooding there’s been recently and to stand in solidarity with all those around the world who are affected by flooding. As the march passed by institutions that continue to invest in fossil fuels and fund ecocide, some questions hung in the air: how can they justify spending billions on new oil and coal projects? why do they refuse to stop the harm? how can they say nothing when people’s lives are being washed away?
In the middle of the City, rebels sat in the road and took part in a People’s Assembly facilitated by Trust the People. 28 groups of people sat together and discussed how they think XR should grow from here, in a poignant embodiment of the kind of democratic processes we want the leaders of our country to write into law. The kind we need to find our way through this crisis.
As a speaker said outside Bank, when we sit in the roads and block traffic from flowing as normal, there is powerful symbolism. For a short period of time, we are forcing the world to find another way around, because the normal route is not viable any longer.
Rebels bare all to highlight our collective vulnerability in the face of this crisis. A troop of confident rebels popped in on HSBC, Barclays and Premier branches and gave passers-by more than they were banking on. Their message was simple: stop funding fossil fuels; we are all vulnerable.
WTF, WFF: Let’s GTFO
After 4 days of peacefully occupying the World Wide Fund for Nature’s headquarters in Woking, the WTFWWF and XR Youth activists take their leave. You can bet your questionable morals, WWF – they’ll be back.
Post-Rebellion Blues? Talk to someone!
Feeling anxious, lonely, or overwhelmed? Need someone to talk to? The XR Rebel2Rebel Telephone Active Listening service is here to support you. All you need to do is make a request and a trained and vetted Rebel Active Listener will give you a call.
To find out more about TESN and its services, see here.
Check out the post-rebellion blues guide here for tons of practical advice on how to safely come back to the ground after an intense phase of action. Take care of each other.
3rd Annual Rebel Survey
Please help us to understand what the movement thinks of the movement and our last rebellion with a six-minute survey.
Please just take a few minutes to fill in this questionnaire to help XRUK to respond to what you all think and what you want us to be and to do.
Last year we learned a lot about who we all are and the ideas we all had. We were able to compare your responses with those from the year before to understand how the movement was changing. All of this can be found in this report. We feel confident we will learn a great deal again this year, so please add your voice – the more people respond, the more meaningful the results will be.
The aim is to find out what motivates people’s participation, and what factors help or hinder people’s involvement, in particular regarding the rebellion that has just ended. Hopefully you will enjoy completing it, and we’ll let you know our findings later this year.
Humans of XR
Paul, Aberdulais, Wales – Earth Fast
‘My name is Paul Hanlon. I am currently on day 8 of an indefinite fast demanding that the UK government have a Citizen’s Assembly on the climate and ecological emergency.
Climate change in the Welsh valleys is real and it’s here. I always knew it would flood my little house at the bottom of the Neath valley in Aberdulais, but it was impossible to know when, how often and how bad it’d be. It was twenty years since the last flood when we had Storm Callum in October 2018. Then we had Storm Ciara in February 2020. Storm Dennis followed 6 days later. None of it was good.
Dennis was the worst. The river Neath burst its banks and rushed down into Canal Side. It filled the entire canal within minutes and kept rising. Half an hour later the water was coming through our letterboxes. The icing on the cake though was the drains. They were the first to go. Sewage came up through every manhole, backflowed up through into baths and toilets. The street was under the best part of a meter of diluted sewage. Our homes, as we knew them, were gone.
I’d been following the climate science. As far as flooding goes, warmer air holds more water, more rain. That’s what it boils down to. Also, storms travel more slowly across the UK since the Jet Stream destabilised so we get the full brunt of them for longer.
Our flood risk in Canal Side was 1 in 100 years when I moved in. Now we’re a one in 5.
For 40 years or more people have been campaigning, writing letters, waving banners etc and we’ve failed, all of us, spectacularly to stop the exponential rise in atmospheric CO2. Traditional protest doesn’t work. Mass direct action is the only way forward. The best time to start was 40 years ago. The next best time is today.
I joined Extinction Rebellion before Storm Dennis and decided to be arrestable. Anxiety issues mean I don’t always have the strength to do things so I decided that when I could I’d do something that was most likely to make a difference. I’ve sat in roads, locked on to boats and under lorries and blocked an oil refinery for 18 hours with my arm inside a massive concrete block.
I find that when you put everything into an action, you inevitably get it all back out again afterwards. It’s a great feeling.
Direct action isn’t as hard as you might think. The only downside I’ve ended up with is a fine. It’s the least I could do. We may not be able to stop this juggernaut but we can tell our children we tried and more importantly give them a better quality of life for longer before the shit really hits the fan.
Join XR today at https://extinctionrebellion.uk/join-us/
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We love you, samba band. Thank you for your sick beats.
Thank you for reading. There’s so much exciting stuff going on we barely have time to write this sign-off. Keep up the good work! If you have any questions or queries, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We need your help to fund this Rebellion. Please give what you can to give us the best chance of affecting positive change.