Extinction Rebellion: Why First-Time Protestors Are Joining The Climate Change Group

"You would have to be pretty stupid not to realise it is a just cause."

They came from all over the country to make a stand in the name of the environment, but for some, it was an action they never thought they would take.

From a builder in Wales to a retired solicitor who had never protested before, the group’s action across London managed to draw in a group of unlikely supporters.

Coordinated by a group called Extinction Rebellion, activists are still holding four sites in London including Waterloo Bridge and Marble Arch.

Activists have blocked major traffic routes with skate board ramps and trees, while others converged around a bright pink boat in the centre of Oxford Circus.

Nearly 300 campaigners have been arrested so far and more are expected to be taken in by police on Wednesday as the group plan to disrupt the London Underground.

HuffPost UK went out and asked those protesting what spurred them into action.

The builder – and first-time protester

Dave said he used to think protests were 'crazy'
Dave said he used to think protests were 'crazy'
Nicola Slawson

Dave, who asked for his surname not to be used, is a builder from mid-Wales.

Before he heard about Extinction Rebellion, he had never been to a protest and admits he is not a usual suspect for environmental activism.

“Before October last year I had never protested. I thought it was crazy but I looked into the science and started listening to the various professors and it’s really really clear.

“There is a massive incongruence between what we know to be true and what the government’s are doing so I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I’m protesting for my children and for everyone else’s children. Our future is at stake.”

He said he decided to join in with the civil disobedience because signing petitions and writing to MPs hasn’t worked. “Even with the Paris Agreement, it’s amounted to nothing so now we are having to take this action to protect our children. The reason I personally got involved is because I’m scared about what’s going on in the world. I looked into the science and we are heading for extinction and mass starvation.”

He said although he is not willing to get arrested on this occasion, he knows many people who are.

“I know we’re being really disruptive and there is going to be a lot of criticism about the tactics we’re using but the civil rights movement were considered to be trouble makers but in hindsight they did the right thing and that’s what we’re doing,” he said.

The retired solicitor – another first-time protester

Julia Brown is at her first ever protest
Julia Brown is at her first ever protest
Nicola Slawson

Closer to Marble Arch, Julia Brown, a retired solicitor from North London is part of a road block stopping cars from crossing Oxford Street.

As she spoke to HuffPost UK several cars tooted their horns in support. It’s her first ever protest and she has been impressed by the friendly atmosphere.

“It’s very good so far and very good natured. The people we are stopping are actually being very good about it and not hurling abuse at us. There is a genuine feeling that there is a just cause and you would have to be pretty stupid not to realise it is a just cause.

“When I first heard about Extinction Rebellion last October when they did the demonstrations on the bridges, I thought that’s a good idea.

“The government is not doing anything so the only hope, maybe, is to have a grassroots revolution. There has been all these Paris accords and they say the right words but they do nothing. What else can we do?”

The architect – inspired by naked protesters

David Matthias said it felt important to join in and get the message out.
David Matthias said it felt important to join in and get the message out.

David Mathias who works in architecture and is from Bristol.

He said it was the recent naked protest in the House of Commons that inspired him to join in.

“I thought it was so fantastic among all the craziness of the Brexit news and just for that to break through and make the headlines was fantastic. Through that I heard about this event and I wanted to come along.”

He has taken some days off work to come to London. He decided to use his annual leave because he felt there is “a real sense of urgency”.

“You feel this sub-swell of concern I think. There are lots of different things happening. It just feels really important to join in and get the message out there and help break through what seems really insignificant in the background with all this Brexit stuff.”

He said he had been to a couple of protests before but was impressed by the creative approaches taken by Extinction Rebellion and how inclusive and welcoming everyone is.

“There is variety of ages and people of different backgrounds here just sharing support and meeting each other. It’s important I think. There is a big community that has taken over the streets,” he said.

The breast-feeding counsellor

Ratna Shah said the protest was 'loving action'.
Ratna Shah said the protest was 'loving action'.
Nicola Slawson

Ratna Shah, breastfeeding counsellor from Hackney, is sitting on a picnic blanket in the sunshine at Marble Arch.

Nearby a workshop is going on teaching people their rights if they get arrested while a folk band is playing in a small stage. She has come down with her neighbours and their children. Although she has been to marches before, she is enjoying the family friendly atmosphere.

“We have kids and we wanted to be involved in some small way and show solidarity. It’s a nice sunny day and it’s great with the music.

“What I love is that they do it with this real regenerative spirit. It’s not a violent action, it’s a loving action. That’s what I like about the Extinction Rebellion approach. It is doom and gloom but at the same time there is always hope.”

“It feels not so angry in a way but still there are people learning about what to do if you get arrested but I think there is call to do things differently and even the way you protest doesn’t have to be descriptive.”


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