Extinction Rebellion causes "traffic mayhem" over Xmas

By Emma Leach

“Climate change: 12 years to save the Earth”...

These words were printed across yellow and green banners, alongside the Extinction Rebellion logo. The banners were held across the pedestrian crossing outside the Guildhall in Westgate on Saturday 5 January, in an act of peaceful protest.

Extinction Rebellion are a new social movement, who aim to drive radical change to mitigate climate change by acts of civil disobedience. They formed in October of 2018 and have grown to become an international presence in just a couple of months, with groups springing up across Europe, America and other countries.

One of their first acts of civil disobedience was the occupation of five London bridges, resulting in 85 arrests.

There have since been many more acts, from road blockages, to spray painting slogans on buildings, to gluing themselves to railings.

The road block in Canterbury was minor in comparison to some of the larger demonstrations elsewhere, with the protestors blocking the pedestrian crossing for carefully timed 7-minute intervals, before allowing some of the traffic to pass again.

All age groups were present at the protest, with their hand painted placards, from families, to the elderly, to teenagers.

Nicholas Thurston, a spokesman for Extinction Rebellion Canterbury said the protest was a "success".

"There was a really friendly atmosphere,” he said, “and so many people showed us support.

"The police were really pleased with how it went, and the protest was peaceful - only one or two drivers got really frustrated.

"There were two aims of the protest today. We wanted to raise this level of concern with the government and also make people aware, so they can raise their voices too."

The “12 years to save the Earth” slogan comes from the findings of a report published by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in October of last year. The report predicts that civilisation have just 12 years remaining to reverse the effects of climate change, with the future beyond 2030 being bleak and unreliable.

The group have garnered support from academics. On the 26 October 2018, an open letter was published in the Guardian, signed by numerous academics, calling for action against climate change. The letter states: “We therefore declare our support for Extinction Rebellion launching on 31 October 2018. We fully stand behind the demands for the government to tell the hard truth to its citizens.”

Signatories include Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury.

The three major demands of the group are: for the government to be transparent about the urgency for change, to enact legally binding policies to reduce carbon emissions in the UK to net zero by 2025, and to create a Citizen’s Assembly to oversee the changes.

With the group as a whole planning on civil disobedience until drastic change occurs, and with International Rebellion Week approaching in April, it is likely that Extinction Rebellion will be back on the streets of Canterbury very soon.