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!

Global Day of Action for Climate Justice


On Saturday, November 6th, an estimated 100,000 marchers filled the Glasgow streets, as part of the Global Day for Climate Justice – a coalition of organisations to bring together many movements, with some 200 cities participating around the world. The message was that justice will not be delivered by world leaders or corporations and that only we can build a future that works for all of us.

Protesters with a banner reading
"Oppressed people... will rise up like a mighty tide and clean this beachfront of capitalism and racism, and make the revolution" - Elaine Brown, Black Panther
Green party protestors with a banner reading "No time to waste"

There was a strong XR presence on the march, with many rebels using their weekend to travel to swell the numbers on the Glasgow streets.

Extinction Rebellion protestors with a banner reading "Act on the science"

A short distance from the march, XR Scientists called on politicians and leaders at the COP to listen to the science before it is too late. Sitting in white lab coats they chained themselves to each other on the King George V bridge in Glasgow city centre, while scientists from around the globe held aloft a banner saying: “Climate revolution or we will lose everything”.

XR Scientists with a banner reading "Climate revolution or we will lose everything"


Extinction Rebellion protestors with a banner reading "We're up sh*t creek"

Millions around the world, in more than 250 locations, marched to demand climate justice. XR Oxford were part of it, joining other climate groups and concerned individuals for a 3000-strong demonstration. The main march mustered at Manzil Way and wove along Cowley Road and the High Street towards Broad Street. Feeder marches from North and West Oxford joined along the way, adding colourful banners (Canaries) and giant eyeballs (Swallows) as they came.

XR Swallows wearing eyeball masks. A banner reads "COP26 The World is Watching"

Speeches at the rally on Broad Street included an impassioned call to arms from XR Youth Oxford, and were interspersed with a performance from XR and the Seagreen Singers of Karine Polwart’s beautiful song Enough is Enough.

A huge crowd gathers in Broad Street, Oxford
Photo: Feng Ho

It was heartening to see the numbers out for the march, the coalition of groups that made it possible, and the number of XR flags and banners making our presence felt.

Seeing Red

Who can fail to be moved when they see the Red Rebels wending their way through our streets? The depth of the red is shockingly intense against concrete buildings and yet achingly vulnerable against hi-viz police vests. As performance art the Red Rebel blood of our species flows through the streets.

The quiet focus of the Red Rebels is an arresting presence amongst bustling (protesting) crowds and ahead of the Oxford march as part of the Global Day for Climate Justice on November 6th an urgent call went out. Volunteers were needed to walk with the Red Rebels during the march, to hand out leaflets and talk to passers by.

The Oxford Red Rebels with a sign reading Code Red for Climate

Headington Fringe rebel Jackie Brumwell volunteered:

I remember the first time I saw The Red Rebels and how affecting their silent, meditative performance was. Together with a friend, I offered to support them on the Nov 6th march as part of the local COP26 actions. Again, I was reminded how effective peaceful demonstration can be. 

On our way, most people were very respectful, waiting as we passed, stopping to watch and take photos.  Some were interested to learn more about what the Rebels represent and what we were doing on the streets. It was a fabulous way to open the conversation about climate.

What also enhanced my experience of supporting The Red Rebels was a reminder (after some time away from demonstrating on the streets) of the ever friendly and patient help and advice from the other volunteers. It left me with a sense of solidarity and family, we’re all in this together. I would strongly recommend helping out in this way if you get the chance.


A painting of the globe in the shape of a human heart, choked by barbed wire.

Every year, members of nearly 200 nations assemble as a Conference of the Parties (COP) to discuss how to tackle climate change. Having already been delayed by a year due to the pandemic, the 26th COP held in Glasgow was eagerly awaited to see if the pledges first outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement were being upheld. The word on the street was that not enough progress had been made and the goal of keeping the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels was nowhere to be seen. 


Unlike other years, this COP saw world leaders arriving during the first weekend. This drew attention with plenty of publicity and a sense of optimism. Keen to make the best use of their time in Glasgow, leaders made a flurry of headline-grabbing announcements. There were promises to end deforestation, curb methane emissions and stop public investment in coal power. These were all very welcome but can they/will they be delivered? Some of them we have heard before – a similar pledge to end deforestation by 2030 was made in 2014. Although there were now more detailed plans and money targeted at making this happen, the pledge still has no legally binding foundation.

Some countries did not attend due to problems with travel restrictions and delegates from some countries being unvaccinated. A big disappointment was that leaders of some key countries did not attend, including Russia, China, Brazil and Saudi Arabia, leaving their negotiators without the authority to make binding decisions.

On Friday, disappointed youth activists marched during what was week 167 of the Schools Strike. A frustrated Greta Thunberg accused the COP attendees of Greenwashing, calling for “enough of the Blah! Blah! Blah! “

A crowd of protesters under a banner saying "How many cops to arrest climate chaos?"

On the weekend, it was the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice. Check out our coverage here.


After the big speeches and media announcements, the world leaders slipped away leaving behind their negotiating teams to hammer out the technical details of the pledges. The negotiations are crucial to ensure each country delivers on their promises, including the targets (what they would deliver), the deadlines (when they would deliver) and the process of transparency (to make sure they delivered). Tough rules are needed to make it difficult for countries to cheat their way out if reducing emissions, but all countries need to sign up. Many countries strive for tight deadlines, but others (particularly developing countries) need more flexibility because they lack the infrastructure to monitor and report progress. 

Sensing the ‘Keep 1.5 alive’ goal slipping away, Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to Glasgow in Week 2 in an attempt to inject more energy into the talks. This was welcomed by the negotiators, but by the last planned day of the COP, there was widespread alarm at the weakness of the emerging plans. Countries are not committing to act fast enough on their pledges. Christiana Figueres, the former UN chief who oversaw the 2015 Paris Agreement said current targets needed to be re-visited annually and enhanced again next year, we cannot wait another 5 years. According to Climate Action Tracker the current trajectory is 2.4C, so it really is now or never.

This is a disaster for the smaller island states that are most vulnerable to climate change and already suffering. Not only has the 1.5C target been left behind but the very premise of the international COP is called into question. If countries not only break their promises, but are not even embarrassed by their failure, then the COP is not fit for purpose.

With knowledge comes responsibility

220 Health Journals Call for Action to Reduce Emissions

Society now knows that climate change is caused by humanity and its consequences are extremely alarming (IPCC report 2021). When the wider scientific community publish this kind of evidence, it is simply shocking to see how governments, groups and individuals can simply ignore it.

Generally, scientists are a reserved bunch of individuals, but all around the world they are beginning to act based on the principle that ‘with knowledge comes responsibility’. On September 6th this year, some 220 health journals from around the world simultaneously published an editorial calling on world leaders to collaborate and work together to respond to the climate emergency.   The editors demanded urgent action to keep average global temperature increases below 1·5°C, particularly to avoid the dire consequences for human health – already heat-related mortality is increasing by more than 50% in people over 65 years. They were also clear that we cannot wait for the COVID-19 pandemic to end before acting.

While individual Health journals have previously called for action on climate change to protect health and biodiversity, this was the first time so many have joined together to publish the same urgent message. Particularly pleasing was that their message also recognised that equity must be at the centre of the global response, acknowledging that ‘the consequences of the environmental crisis fall disproportionately on those countries and communities that have contributed least to the problem and are least able to mitigate the harms.’

Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty

2,185 scientists + academics have just called for a fossil fuel non proliferation treaty. Backdrop: an industrial plant spewing smoke from a chimney.
Logo in corner: The Fossil Fuel Non Proliferation Treaty.
[Photo Credit: fossilfueltreaty.org]

Also in September, an open letter went live, with scientists, researchers and academics from 81 different countries calling for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty – a global initiative to phase out fossil fuels and support a just transition to renewable energy. Just as 50 years ago the world needed a treaty to defuse the global threats posed by nuclear weapons of mass destruction, the world today needs a Treaty to stop the expansion of fossil fuel production. The open letter, which was delivered to world leaders on the eve of the UN General Assembly, noted that the burning of coal, oil and gas is the greatest contributor to climate change and that, ‘air pollution caused by fossil fuels was responsible for almost 1 in 5 deaths worldwide in 2018’. Signatories included scientists and academics from a range of disciplines, as well-known individuals such as Michael E. Mann, David Suzuki, Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein and the Dalai Lama. They propose an end to new expansion of fossil fuel production (Non-Proliferation), a fair phasing out of existing fossil fuel production, and investment in a transformational plan to ensure 100% access to renewable energy.

Stop Shell Greenwashing

During the Impossible Rebellion, multiple actions to highlight ‘Greenwashing’ were on display including the occupation of the London Science Museum overnight by 70 XR scientists. Rebels wanted to draw attention to the hypocrisy of having Shell, a major fossil fuel company, sponsor the museum’s flagship climate change exhibition ‘Our Future Planet’. Although initially involving the police, the museum chose not to press charges, presumably as this would have attracted a lot of negative press.

The Science Museum took to Twitter to defend their position, saying they would take the opportunity to ‘challenge’ Shell to do better. It is difficult to see how they were going to do this, however, since as reported by Channel 4 News the Science Museum’s Sponsorship deal included a ‘gagging clause’ to avoid damaging Shell’s reputation.

Illustration by Imogen Foxell, portraying protest outside Science Museum
Illustration by Imogen Foxell

Aside from raising awareness, XR is often asked what the point of these targeted actions is and usually we cannot say. But sometimes, our actions have a snowball effect, starting small and then gathering momentum. Since the ‘night at the museum’ action, former Science Museum Director, and respected climate scientist, Professor Rapley, who originally endorsed the Shell sponsorship, has now changed his position. He has just resigned his seat on the Advisory Board, saying that ‘with the need to abolish fossil fuels as quickly as possible’…he questioned ‘the commitment of the oil and gas companies to do so’.

While the public often miss or ignore the important science on the climate emergency, we need more of these actions to draw attention to the message. The public holds scientists in high regard for their honesty (at least more so than politicians) so actions performed by scientists, and backed up by data, are becoming more difficult to ignore.