AT 5PM on Monday 24 April, a deadline set by the UK’s biggest ever single-location, collaborative climate protest expired. Now, more than 200 leading environmental and social justice groups (including Extinction Rebellion (XR), Greenpeace, War on Want, Avaaz and Global Justice Now) will step up campaigns to force the UK government to tackle the accelerating climate emergency and social injustice immediately.
Seven days earlier, the UK government was given a choice by 49 groups including Greenpeace and War on Want, representing millions of ordinary people: agree to enter negotiations on their two collective demands for an immediate halt to all new coal, oil and gas exploration, and set up emergency citizens assemblies to oversee a fair and people-led transition, centred on reparatory justice – or face the consequences.
As the deadline passed, XR co-founder Clare Farrell said: “The government had a week to respond to our demands and they have failed to do so. Next we will reach out to supporter organisations to start creating a plan for stepping up our campaigns across an ecosystem of tactics that includes everyone from first-time protesters to those willing to go to prison.”
The announcement came after more than 60,000 people descended on the streets of Westminster across the weekend for The Big One, a four-day protest which created a safe, non-disruptive and collaborative space for many groups and movements to come together and build a more united approach to forcing government action.
Days of debate and deliberation by tens of thousands of people around three pathways for stepping up were captured by digital polling technology. Almost eight out of 10 (79 per cent) protestors opted for Pathway 3, Disobey, which includes a wide range of civil disobedience and nonviolent direct action. “Effectively tens of thousands from different organisations have signalled that they are ready to move into a far more challenging and disruptive posture against a government that is gambling with our lives and futures”, said Rob Callender, of Extinction Rebellion.
Nine out of 10 (91 per cent) of protestors will pursue Pathway 2, Organise Locally, returning to their local communities to mobilise many more people for climate action. “These people will be growing this movement fast over the months ahead creating a critical mass of the population that the government will be simply unable to ignore”, said Callender.
Nearly half (47 per cent) of protestors chose Pathway 1, Picket, and so agreed to add their support and physical presence to the wave of union strike actions, from NHS workers and teachers to railway staff and firefighters, that have been challenging the government’s ability to govern over the last six months. “This will be a vital form of solidarity that will confront those in power with our understanding that the health, transport and cost of living crises are all strands of the climate emergency“, said Callender.
Talks have already started between the groups and movements involved in The Big One about how to create a unified national campaign of stepping up from the powerful sense of community, shared purpose and determination not to be a bystander which were evident at the event and through on-the-ground polling.
“This time nearly 60,000 of us showed up at Parliament over the four days to demonstrate our growing unity and strength,” said Callender. “People gained a sense that together we are unstoppable and that we have the power to halt the Business As Usual mindset in its tracks before it destroys all of our futures.
“Over the next three months, we will be translating the appetite for action amongst people at The Big One into a whole new range of campaigns and action across the country. Everything we do will be aimed at building and mobilising the huge climate movement that turned out over the last four days so that we can return to Parliament this year from every corner and community in the country in even greater numbers. And this time we won’t leave until our demands to the government are met. We are all ready to do the important work of taking back our power and creating a better future for everyone.”
Dominique Palmer of Fridays For Future said: “Collectively, we can unite, and demand better. We have the power in all of us. As we have seen, we cannot wait for politicians to take action that prioritises people and planet over profit, and so we must demand it. By applying pressure, we can win. And create an equitable future. Together we can engage, educate and empower people to take action, which is what Climate Live does through creative methods, with a focus on COP28 this year. And uniting people is what Fridays for Future do to mobilise people globally.”
Daisy Pearson from Global Justice Now said:“The last four days have been about broadening our movement, deepening its connections, and developing our understanding of the root causes of the climate crisis – from the big polluters not paying a penny towards the costs of climate disasters, to the international trade treaties which lock in the fossil fuel industry’s dominance and power.
“If the many and varied groups that came together over the course of this weekend continue to build outwards and coordinate inwards, this could be the beginning of a movement truly capable of bringing an end to the fossil fuel era.”
Joe Davies from Don’t Pay UK said: “Don’t Pay UK are looking forward to the next stages, we will be telling people how they are able to individually leverage their energy provider to pay attention to the already critical climate crisis. We will be showing people how they can claim back the credit owed to them by those providers, as well as moving on to other methods of individual energy disobedience.”
Over the four days of The Big One, People’s Pickets picketed every major government ministry in Whitehall, daily Peoples Assemblies empowered thousands to debate and decide the next stage of the movement’s strategy, and marches in the streets around Parliament made the demands for action clear to everyone in a position of power.
The media expressed concerns that participants at The Big One would disrupt the London Marathon. This did not happen, as the race went off without incident – despite runners being within metres of tens of thousands of protesters. London Marathon director Hugh Brasher said on BBC One: “We have been speaking to Extinction Rebellion for months about their protests. Their cause is so important and we want our two parties to work together. We have had conversations with Just Stop Oil too, and again, the cause is important.”
* Read the collective demand from The Big One here.
* More information on the future Pathways for action here.
* Source: Extinction Rebellion