Just Sit Down – Opening Weekend of the Rebellion

Rebellion Day 1

Saturday was the most beautiful spring morning for the start of the April rebellion. In London an estimated 8000 rebels slowly assembled in Hyde Park, gently peeling off the layers in the sunshine and unfurling the flags.

XR rebels gather in Hyde Park with dozens of brightly coloured flags.

Our key focus of the weekend was to collectively envisage a world beyond fossil fuels. To understand that our dependence on fossil fuels must end. With the release of the terrifying 3rd IPCC report the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.”

We Will Not Be Bystanders

XR Rebels march down Regent Street with a banner: "We will not be bystanders"

We were slow to get started. Affinity groups and newcomers gathered together to remind ourselves why we were there and what we needed to do. Nearly everyone answered …. For my children. For my future children. For all children.

In a brilliant act of inclusivity all newcomers were welcomed and together with seasoned rebels (who were also a little rusty) we were all trained in Non Violent Direct Action while we demanded the government ends all fossil fuels now. A little role-playing reminded us of how to respond to the police during our mass action (Just sit down). How to respond to threatened arrest (No comment. No caution. No details) and how to handle actual arrest (Go floppy).

Our refresher over, we prepared for the London streets. We marched. We drummed. We flowed around London practising our new hand signals – and then we just sat down…we occupied the road…thousands of bodies in the street refusing to move. The simple act of sitting down at multiple junctions clogged traffic around the city.

Welcome Oxford Samba Band

XR samba drummers in Hyde Park

Samba bands from all over the UK joined together, in formation, to play our instruments and wake up London. The sound was incredible and playing together, many for the first time, was a beautiful metaphor for how we can join together for a common purpose. We finished with a spontaneous and joyful performance to the crowds in Trafalgar Square.

A samba drum on the ground surrounded by rebels sitting down

Rebellion Day 2

The sun was shining again on Sunday in Hyde Park and rebels were keen to get going and make some noise. This time the march moved off quickly and with purpose. We learned to quickly respond to the hand signals: stop, quiet, sit down, stand up, march!

The beautiful XR creativity was on display everywhere with some very familiar looking puppets claiming to be our government.

Caricatures of Rish Sunak, Priti Patel and Boris Johnson carry placards:
"Unsure about onshore? Protect the views of the rich"
"Don't blame us. We are not very responsible"
"Power crisis? We have the power. You have the crisis."

This is what democracy looks like

Eventually the march split in two moving quickly to block Lambeth and Vauxhall bridges. The youth stormed the bridges and rebels just sat down! We blocked all the traffic and amidst significant disruption all around we started talking – demonstrating the power of People’s Assemblies.

XR Doctors blockade Lambeth Bridge.

The bridges were slowly cleared until all but a single line of brave doctors remained! There were some 30+ arrests reported on Saturday and another 45 on Sunday including six dedicated XR doctors prepared to step up! Rebels volunteered to help at all the main police stations making sure rebels were welcomed when they were released.

XR Doctors and nurses
"I am here because I am terrified for my patients"
"Nurse protesting for public health"

The time has come to remind everyone that XR is made up of ordinary people.

Bring on the outreach!