A non-protester's view on protesting
I'm not sure I’ve ever been a fan of protests. I've never had to bond with a big group and when I see them in the distance or from the bus I feel uneasy. I think that if I get involved I might get caught up in the throng and I'll get arrested. It sounds silly but they do scare me. There’s no denying that they can work though. They bring whatever’s being talked about or fought for to the forefront of the news and politicians may even start to take note.
Extinction Rebellion and their 5 day protest over the Easter holidays made me change my thinking. I’d heard about XR and their logo and what they do from a great friend Rima Patel one afternoon in January. I signed up to XR’s cause, and unsubscribed shortly after when I decided they were a bit too militant for me and their emails became a little too in-your-face for my liking. And I admit I hadn’t even heard they were going to protest until I got caught in London traffic near the south side of the river, when the traffic was going nowhere. It was a mild inconvenience and when I heard the reason why on the radio's traffic news reports I couldn't help but smile and approve of what the protesters were doing. Extinction Rebellion had taken over Waterloo Bridge. Protesters, families, hippies, other people who had the freedom to take time off work to camp out on one of London’s busiest bridges for a few days all arrived to demand that the climate crisis be put under the spotlight. The protesters were also on Parliament Square, Marble Arch and Speaker’s Corner, the Natural History Museum and Oxford Circus. Protesters glued their hands together around railings and their breasts to pavements and there were plans to disrupt Heathrow on the last day in a final coup de grace. It was a peaceful protest though. The only weapons found were kitchen knives that the protesters were using to prepare meals en masse for everyone who turned up. I watched the footage and decided that Extinction Rebellion had won for two reasons: 1, the government declared a climate crisis (that they haven’t done anything about it since is galling but it's a start), 2, the people interviewed on the news who were affected by the disruption are the ones that look bad: one guy interviewed was sitting in his car at a standstill with the engine running and a lit cigarette blowing smoke into the camera.
Back to my car though, I wasn’t angry, or stressed that they were in my way. I just turned around and went home, returning later in the evening, choosing my route carefully to avoid the worst of the blocks. I still needed to get my job done but I was on XR’s side, I was on the side of all the protesters bringing climate change to the news instead of boring old Brexit, with its endless speculation and deals that would not be agreed upon.
I’m glad that Extinction Rebellion carried out a successful, popular protest, peacefully. I’m still not sure I’d make it to one but I am pleased that people take to the streets to spread a message about things that are important to them especially if it’s about climate change. I know I follow numerous green, sustainable, zero waste organisations on social media, and everyone knows I even belong to one, but everyone seems to be talking about it now. People are starting to embrace greener practices in terms of producing less waste, switching electricity consumption to eco-providers who offer wind and solar energy, taking the bus, flying less and offsetting their carbon footprint. All this stuff helps. It’s not about three people doing everything to save the planet, it’s about all of us doing something. The tide is turning and I’m delighted to be a part of it, even if I won’t go out onto the streets to show it.