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Students protesting for Extinction Rebellion make me proud of our generation

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The last few days have seen an extraordinary organisation of protests by Extinction Rebellion. These peaceful protests have been happening in storm across London as the people say enough is enough to the governments who are slowly destroying our planet and showing no sign of changing their policies. 

I spoke to York Extinction Rebellion (XR) member and student Merry Dickinson who has been campaigning in London this week, who was arrested for peacefully protesting on Tuesday.

Merry Dickinson in York

Merry protesting in York/ Image Credit: Veda Kohli

I asked Merry how long she has been an advocate for the Environment. She said that she had "always been aware of climate change, but started being more seriously aware at the age of 17", when she "started making individual changes, and talking more about climate breakdown to anyone who would listen.

"However it’s only in the last 6 months that I’ve been actively involved in environmental organising and activism, and now I spend pretty much all my time organising around climate justice! I am now a coordinator of Extinction Rebellion York, co-environment and ethics students union officer, involved with the youth strikes and organise with Reclaim The Power as well!"

Reclaim the Power is a 'UK based direct action network fighting for social, environmental and economic justice'. 

Protests

Image Credit: Merry Dickinson 

What has the mood been like on the ground?

"It has been one of community, love and solidarity. Everyone I meet has been absolutely lovely and very welcoming and supportive. There is of course the sense of urgency, and fear about the lack of action over climate breakdown. However seeing so many people come out and be willing to take action and risk their liberty to try and prevent climate catastrophe is incredibly inspiring and created a real sense of hope and community. "

To me, it is obvious that the fate of the planet is something that is in the interest of everybody, it unites continents, religions, and generations. Governments who ignore the issue are signing the earth's death sentence.

It is amazing to see how much awareness has been raised for the environment in the last six months. No one thought that when school girl Greta Thunberg went on school strike last August that it would lead to a such a vast global movement. Merry said that since being set up in November, York XR has "400 members and are growing every week!"

I asked Merry where York XR has been based over the last fews days. She answered that they had "been in Parliament Square for a large part of it, although a large amount of York XR (including myself) were arrested on Waterloo Bridge as that has been most heavily targeted we wanted to support them."

I was espcially interested to find out more about Merry's arrest. Over 290 people have been arrested in London so far and I wanted to know how these arrests were carried out, especially for peaceful protestors like Merry.

Protests

Image Credit: Mark Matthews

Merry's Arrest

"I was sat on Waterloo Bridge, peacefully protesting the lack of action over climate breakdown. However the police had been removing people throughout the night and day, in an attempt to clear the bridge.

"Shortly after I sat down they began trying to arrest me, and when I would not stand up I was forcefully removed and carried to the van. I refused to leave because although I wish we did not have to cause disruption, traditional organising methods have not had enough of an impact and we need to do everything within our power in order to avert the worst impacts of climate catastrophe."

Merry Dickinson

Merry Protesting in York/ Image Credit: Golam Rabbani 

How do you feel about the police’s reactions?

"My experience of arrest, while not pleasant, was vastly different as I am a white middle class woman on a protest, and is incomparable to the vast majority of people’s experience with the police. They have been increasingly rough with XR protestors, although I stress again that this far less severe than most people and in terms of environmental protestors those on fracking sites.

 

"That being said, while in jail I had many police officers offer their support and encouragement, and many of them are forced to follow orders regarding XR that they do not personally agree with."

I asked Merry what the plan was for the next few days, given the lack of reaction from the government so far. She said that they "will be escalating [their] actions as the government still refuses to listen to our demands and recognise the climate emergency we are currently living in. We intend on continuing to hold all the sites, and engage in creative and disruptive action as the week continues. "

 

What do you hope to achieve this week?

"We hope for the government to listen to our demands, to tell the truth about the climate emergency and act accordingly. That being said, if the government refuses to listen we will still have engaged with thousands of people and continue to grow the movement until we can no longer be ignored."

"I would like to send my love and solidarity to all of those on the frontline communities, fighting extractive industries and environmental degradation in order just to survive. I urge people to remember that this isn’t an issue of the future, climate breakdown is happening right now and millions of people all around the world are being forced into suffering and even death due to the entirely destructive actions of those who have willingly destroyed our planet in the pursuit of profit. These are the people least responsible for climate breakdown, and yet they are the most to suffer. I believe we in the West have a responsibility to do everything within our power to minimise the destruction of climate breakdown and prevent further suffering."

Fridays for Future Sanremo - 47

Image Credit: Tommi Boom on Flickr 

"Change is never just handed to you, rights have never just been given away, they come from people actively organising and taking collective action to demand these rights and force change to happen."

The government has so far hardly commented on the protests which for me shows not only a complete lack of care over this issue, but also the fact that they just don't know what to do.

I am so heartened that students across the country are striving for change. People like Merry make me proud to be a part of my generation. People who call us snowflakes are wrong, they're just scared of how right we are.




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