Arrests made as environmental activists stage mourning for the planet

Arrests made as environmental activists stage mourning for the planet

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Words and pictures by Kumail Jaffer

14 environmental activists were arrested as they mourned the ‘death’ of the planet during a procession in central London on Saturday.

Extinction Rebellion, a group pressuring the government to take action over climate change, carried out ‘Rebellion Day 2’, an eighth consecutive day of protest.

Activists, which have numbered from the dozens to the thousands, have blocked busy roads and bridges, held sit-ins and marched through London’s streets to try and achieve their demands.

Organiser Roger Hallam said: “We’re having a funeral march. We’re saying that billions of people will die in the next decade unless we sort out the climate crisis and that’s beyond serious.”

The ‘funeral procession’ began with a grave being dug into Parliament Square and ended with a plea to the Queen outside of Buckingham Palace, where most of the 14 were arrested.

Grace Gillan, who came from Dorset with her son Rowan, said: “The reason people are here today is the criminal action of the Government and failure to respond to the very real and immediate threats we face from climate change.”

“The hole is a grave, and today is a funeral procession. Last week we took over five bridges, and that was about celebrating the life that we have left. This week, we’re mourning what we’ve lost and the mistakes we’ve made.”

The march attracted a mostly left-leaning crowd, with the exception of two agitators who were apprehended by police.

Theo Sharieff, National Chair of Socialist Students, said: “We’re here to give socialist perspectives on how we can fight back against climate change.”

Mr Sharieff, like many, noted that the recent UN report sparred many into action – but felt that anger should be directed at the multinational corporations which emit the majority of carbon emissions.

He added: “We think climate change is a class issue. It’s linked to capitalism’s pursuit of profits at the cost of anything, including the environment.

“This is a great starting point, but we’ve got to be mobilising a lot more people than this – working class people, middle class people and young people.”

Mr Hallam agreed, and said: “Whether you’re left wing or right wing, it doesn’t matter.

All these small businessmen will be out of business, they won’t have the customers. All the property will be worthless. There will be social breakdown.”

Mr Hallam, an organic farmer, also stressed the dangers of climate change on European food production.

Adela, who has seen hundreds of supportive messages delivered to the Extinction Rebellion Twitter account since the march began, said: “They’re talking about mass starvation in 10 years – yet the Government are doing nothing but rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic and faffing about with Brexit.”

While some who may sympathise with the group’s motivations disagree with their disruptive tactics, those behind the campaign insist on its necessity.

Mr Hallam said: “When something dire is happening, and this is beyond dire, you’ve got to have disruption – and people are going to get upset about that. That’s part of the process of political change.

“If we don’t get this sorted out, there will be blood on the streets in a decade or two.”

Additional reporting from Joshua Parfitt

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