|Protesters defied the police in the new wave of “rebellion” and called on Parliament to declare a climate emergency, reports Yonas Makoni
On Wednesday morning, protesters descended on Parliament Square for the second day of ‘two weeks of civil disobedience’ organised by Extinction Rebellion (XR). The purpose of this round of actions is to mark Parliament’s return to session after the summer holidays with renewed pressure on politicians to declare a climate emergency and establish a citizen’s assembly against climate change.
First on the agenda was “Climate Corpses”, organised by Doctors for XR. I arrived at 10am to find these metaphoric victims of climate catastrophe scattered across the square and the surrounding streets. In Parliament Square Gardens, they had arranged themselves in a neat block, some of them rising intermittently to give short speeches.
While the protestors were in good spirits, the large police presence and their clear readiness for confrontation made for a tense atmosphere at times. In the run-up to these protests, the police made their intention to crack down on any defiance of regulations clear. Anyone attempting to go on the main roads was swiftly dragged away, while other protestors would surround the police and cheer on the arrested in solidarity.
At 11, the drum band began to lead a march around the square, accompanied by a growing mass of protestors, supplementing the sound of the drums with chants and 60s folk songs. This joyous mood was soon broken, however, as protestors ran into a police barrier blocking off Parliament Street. Soon police were breaking up the crowd, handcuffing people and dragging them off the road.
Since Tuesday, when the current wave of protests began, more than 90 people have been arrested. While XR emphasises the role of peaceful civil disobedience in raising awareness and putting pressure on the state, it was clear that the police were seeking to send their own message about illegal disruption. XR’s theatrical disruptions were definitely a source of joy for protesters today, but, absent political direction, whether they can win out over the police’s law and order narrative remains unclear.