CHRISTIANS helped to bring areas of central London to a standstill on Monday as part of Extinction Rebellion protests demanding that the Government take more action to combat climate change.
Members of Christian Climate Action parked a lorry on the Marble Arch roundabout, which had been cleared of traffic by roadblocks, and similar mini-festivals took place at four other sites in the capital.
Another lorry was parked across Waterloo Bridge, which the protesters turned into a pedestrianised “garden bridge”, with pot-plants and bushes dotted along the normally busy thoroughfare. Hyde Park Corner roundabout was shut down, as well as Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus, all with a carnival atmosphere of music, talks, and art installations.
PAExtinction Rebellion demonstrators camp near Marble Arch
The protesters planned to stay put day and night until the Government agreed to meet them to discuss their demands of declaring a climate emergency, making plans for the UK to achieve net-zero emissions by 2025, and setting up a citizen’s assembly on climate change.
Camping gear and Portaloos were installed to cater for a long stay. Although police arrested more than 100 people on Monday night, the protesters still held all four of their sites on Tuesday.
Some of the protesters locked themselves to the lorries to stop the police removing them. At Marble Arch, Sheila Collins, from Cardiff, an 80-year-old member of Christian Climate Action, locked herself to the underside of the lorry.
She said that she was settling in for a long wait: “It’s very uncomfortable being locked under this lorry, but it’s nothing compared with the suffering that climate change is causing, and it’s a small price to pay if we can get the Government to act.
“I do this for my grandchildren, as I worry what kind of a world they are going to be left with.
“If it means I get arrested, then so be it. When Jesus saw injustice, and the poor being exploited in the Temple, he wasn’t passive: he took action and drove out the money lenders. We’ve tried being polite and asking nicely for climate change to be addressed, but we’re still way off track. So we’ve been forced to up the ante.”
Her group received support this week from the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams, who led a prayer vigil for the rebellion outside St Paul’s Cathedral on Sunday night.
He said: “Christians are called by God to show to the world what the divine image looks like — the image of a divine creator who brought the world to birth, called it good, and summoned human beings to reflect this divine care and delight through their own work in the world, animated by the gift of Christ’s Spirit.
Terry MatthewsOne of several problems posed to the police near Marble Arch
“Christian Climate Action seeks to respond to that summons. In the face of impending environmental crisis, we need to encourage one another to grow more fully into the joyful responsibility we are made for.”
Several London churches hosted Extinction Rebellion members from outside the capital over the weekend, while others planned a Holy Week foot-washing ceremony for protesters.
A Church House spokesperson said on Monday: “The Church of England, through its environment programme and shareholder-resolution agenda, is committed to advocating for urgent action on climate change.
“It is encouraging that many independent groups and charities are also raising awareness of this need, and we are supportive of any lawful, peaceful protest action which helps to address this urgent issue.”
The Extinction Rebellion activities have not been confined to the UK. Simultaneous demonstrations have taken place in more than 30 other countries.
Holly-Anna Petersen/Christian Climate ActionSheila Collins locked herself under a lorry at Marble Arch: ‘a small price to pay’
Christian Aid’s head of advocacy, Tom Viita, said that the protests were the latest sign that people were losing patience with the excuses for inaction given by those in power. “The warnings of climate change have been clear for decades, yet too many governments and multinational companies have deliberately delayed and avoided the necessary action. Meanwhile, the consequences of climate damage have become more and more brutal — most obviously among the poorest, who face dying crops, prolonged droughts, or devastating typhoons.”
Although there was a festival atmosphere at the main sites in London, a group of activists took a more violent approach to the head office of the oil giant Shell. Accusing the multinational of criminal negligence and ecocide, the activists smashed its glass front door and spray-painted “Shell kills” on the building’s walls. By causing more than £6000 worth of damage, the activists seek to get the case heard in the Crown Court by a jury of fellow citizens rather than in a magistrate’s court where judges sit alone.
Listen to Joe Ware talk more about Extinction Rebellion on the Church Times Podcast - also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and most other podcast platforms.