THE Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, and the Bishop of Colchester, the Rt Revd Roger Morris, joined Extinction Rebellion protesters in Trafalgar Square before the second and final week of climate-change protests drew to a close.
On Sunday, Bishop Morris, joined members of Christian Climate Action in Trafalgar Square and outside Scotland Yard, where they urged police to return wheelchairs and other equipment that had been seized from disabled members of Extinction Rebellion.
Bishop Morris said: “When our very existence is threatened by our insatiable exploitation of this precious earth, we have to speak up and we have to take action. Already we have seen an unprecedented number of extreme weather events that have claimed many lives.
“These can no longer be described as natural disasters. We have created the conditions in which they occur, and our silence and inaction allow them to continue to wreak havoc among the poorest and most vulnerable people on our planet.
“It is this sense of urgency that lies behind the non-violent direct action of the kind we are seeing in London and around the world. This is a wake-up call to the world. It is prophetic; so I thank God for Extinction Rebellion, and I pray that their voice may be heard — for all our sakes.
“It was an honour to share in a service of holy communion with other environmental protesters today. My being there was an act of solidarity. Our communion was an act of fellowship. Our worship — like all true worship — was an act of subversion and rebellion against the principalities and powers of our present age, and a celebration of our shared hope and faith in God.”
Earlier, Bishop Bayes took part in a public reading from the Revelation. Afterwards, he posted a message on Twitter: “Standing as part of @ExtinctionR London, with many Christians, reading from Revelation in Trafalgar Square, remembering our hope in Jesus in a dark time, standing in solidarity with those of all faiths and none who see the terrible urgency of our situation as a planet.”
PAA young protester stands on a lamp post, in front of the Royal Exchange in the City of London, on Tuesday
Nearly 3000 people have been arrested in protests in cities around the world; and just over half of those have been held in London. Among those arrested was Princess Marie-Esméralda, aged 63, the aunt of King Philippe of Belgium.
Other protesters included the former Chief Superintendent of Devon and Cornwall Police, Rob Cooper, who is 60. He told The Daily Telegraph: “There’s a small group of former police officers [protesting]. If you think of XR as a bunch of tree-huggers, it’s just not the case. I would invite anyone who’s got children and grandchildren to think about this. It’s a broad church.”
He has been joined by churchpeople, including a Roman Catholic nun from Nottingham, Sister Katrina Alton, 52, of the St Joseph of Peace congregation. She was arrested while taking part in a sit-in at City Airport on Saturday.
She said: “I come from a place of real privilege, and I need to pay my dues. If that means going to prison, then that’s what I will do. Otherwise, our Government is just not listening to us. We sat down and refused to move. We sang “Amazing Grace”, we prayed, and said the Our Father, until we were arrested for breach of the peace and obstruction of the highway.”
On Monday night, police cleared Trafalgar Square of protesters, after issuing a revised Section 14 order which said that all protests in London must cease by 9 p.m. Extinction Rebellion said in a statement: “Extinction Rebellion will let the Trafalgar Square site go tonight. The International Rebellion continues.”
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, a Green Party peer, is launching a legal challenge to the order on the grounds that it breaches protesters’ right to freedom of expression and to protest under the European Convention.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said in a statement: “Neither I nor the deputy mayor for policing and crime was informed before the Metropolitan Police took the operational decision to impose a Section 14 order on the Extinction Rebellion Autumn Uprising last night. I’ve met with senior officers today to seek further information on why they deemed this necessary.”
Some of the most colourful members of the protest have been the “Red Rebels”, who silently appear at protest hotspots wearing scarlet robes and make-up and whose photographs have appeared around the world. This week, they thanked St John’s, Waterloo, for allowing them to use its crypt as a base. One of them said: “St John’s has been fantastically generous to us. We’re not London people; so without this space we couldn’t possibly function.”
This week, the protesters switched their attention from sites around Parliament to the financial district, to highlight the part played by London firms that are funding fossil-fuel expansion around the world. At 7 a.m. on Monday, about 100 people walked on to the road junction outside the Bank of England and sat down, disrupting traffic through the City.
In a statement, the group said: “Extinction Rebellion this morning are disrupting the system bankrolling the environmental crisis. The day of disruption, which will target financial institutions, seeks to highlight the far greater disruption faced by those living in the environments systematically being destroyed by UK-backed companies. The ecological damage is global, and it is hitting the Global South now.”
In a letter to diocesan clergy sent last week, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, said that, although she did not condone law-breaking, churches should think about what they could do to address climate change.
She said: “We recognise that not everyone across the churches of our diocese will be comfortable with public protests, even when non-violent and peaceful. It is worth noting, however, that there is a long history of Christians’ taking a public stand for matters of faith and justice.”