Oxford Rebels take action during COP26

Call the Alarm

To mark the start of the COP and alongside a nationally organized event, we arranged an action on Magdalen Bridge on 30th October.  The purpose was to raise awareness of COP, highlight greenwashing and to bring attention to the fact that the likeliest risk to the UK from climate change was flooding.

We asked for people to meet on Magdalen bridge at 5.30, and we were planning to close the bridge by putting banners across the road, then hold a two minute silence. Then with the help of the samba band we wanted to raise as much noise as we could, as we sounded the alarm.

We had a great turnout on the night. Many with fantastic banners. As people arrived the Samba band played the beat of SOS to get people practicing for when the alarm was raised.  There was a police presence but a supportive one.

Before we moved onto the bridge, the Solemn Intention was read out – it was a great way to ground us before the action. It is a beautiful statement.

We then occupied the bridge, and with a raising of arms we all fell silent.  After two minutes, we moved to the sides of the bridge, and followed the samba band with the SOS rhythm.

There was great enthusiasm to take advantage of the numbers of people, the samba band and the beautiful banners – so we then moved to the roundabout at the plain and continued to call the alarm until about 6.45 when we dispersed.

Extinction Rebellion protestors on The Plain in Oxford

It was a great action, a big thank you to everyone who stewarded, blocked the road and just showed up, it felt like a good start to the COP.

– Sue

Bearing Witness – Meditation as a form of action

A number of meditators from different traditions, including Buddhist, Quaker, Christian, Sufi and secular mindfulness practice, have been joining some of the Barclays protests in Cornmarket over the last few months, simply sitting or standing in silent meditation on either side of the bank’s entrance.

The outreach team has found on these days that passers-by seem more wiling to engage and listen – perhaps responding, however subconsciously, to the peace, steadiness and goodwill that meditation helps to foster, in contrast to the hurry and noise of a busy shopping street.

For those of us who’ve taken part in these meditative actions, it’s been a powerful way to unite our `inner’ and `outer’ energies in collective ethical action. We all know how critical it is to stay resourced while seeking to wake our communities up to the selfishness, ignorance and apathy that is ravaging our precious home and bringing unimaginable suffering. These meditative actions are a way to reclaim and embody a sense of agency and solidarity with those seeking to protect the life systems on which all of us depend.

If you might like to take part in similar meditative actions, please contact Tim Stead, timstead67@gmail.com, and ask to be added to the mailing list.

– Brigid

Oxford Red Rebels join train relay to COP26

Six Oxford Red Rebels, plus guides, travelled by train from Oxford to Birmingham as part of the Red Rebel Relay to COP26 in Glasgow. We began at the Headington Shark – that great cry against war – and travelled by bus to the station where we spelled out CODE RED in semaphore in the stark sunlight. On our journey, we moved from carriage to carriage bearing witness to the climate emergency, and it is safe to say there was a strong reaction to our quiet presence: audible gasps, urgent questions to our guides and long-held gazes with many passengers awoke curiosity and bemusement. At Birmingham New Street we were greeted by local Reds in a powerful exchange before we left the station to slowly move around the city center, returning to welcome more Red Rebels arriving from Bristol and Rugby and to bid farewell to those Reds continuing the journey to Manchester. We formed a circle of familiar strangers united in our grief and stillness, contrasting with the rushing commuters, the juxtaposition opening a space in time to slip through and imagine a hopeful future. It was a great privilege to be part of such a wonderful effort, and to move with unknown Red Rebels, silently and without plan. I felt alive to the moment, to the here and now and to the power of our message, the love and compassion for all living beings and the possibility of change.

A group of Red Rebels in Glasgow

A week later I saw Red Rebel Brigade founder Doug Francisco leading a group of Red Rebels through the streets of Glasgow, all eyes fixed towards the future, and witnessed a rainbow form above them and a shaft of sunlight banish the wind and rain.

– Jeannie

Vigil for Climate

On Monday 1st November, to mark the start of the COP26, rebels joined the Vigil for Climate event in Oxford. It was a silent, candlelit hour of quiet refection, in honour of those whose lives have been lost or blighted by the climate crisis. We remembered the people and wildlife already lost to floods and wildfires, as well as the effects of heatwaves and crop failure around the globe. Rebels stood in a crescent of solidarity, holding lanterns and RIP tombstones, reminding us of long-gone animal and plant species we will never see again. Unlike the usual gloriously loud and colourful XR protests, the vigil was a sombre affair, which was surprisingly effective in the busy Carfax crossroads amongst the buses and shoppers. Many passers-by were hushed as they walked past rebels dressed in black. Although there was no active outreach, rebels on the periphery of the crescent were able to quietly engage curious onlookers. The hour-long silence ended with beautiful communal singing supported by the Sea Green Singers. By the end we all knew the lyrics of ‘Enough is Enough’, the COP song written by Scottish folk singer Karine Polwart. At the end of the vigil, people quietly left or remained in silence as the sound of singing quietly drifted into the night.

– Deborah

Daily Outreach

Photo: Suzanne Williams

Following the success of our daily presence on Cornmarket during the August Rebellion, we were there every lunchtime throughout COP, leafleting and talking to passers by to raise awareness. Signup sheets did very well, gaining over 200 new newsletter signups!  Eye catching props varied throughout the two weeks: Nellie the Elephant made a couple of appearances, as did the very affecting enlarged photos of climate impacts. Growing the movement is going to be an important strand of our activity post-COP, so this kind of outreach (though it can be wearing, as so many people clearly prefer blissful ignorance!) is valuable.

– April