LONDON – London’s Trafalgar Square, where in recent days hundreds of environmental activists have been camping out, has become one of the epicenters of the “rebellion” against the inaction of many governments vis-a-vis the climate crisis.
The Extinction Rebellion movement, whose members have blocked many streets in the British capital over the past three days, plans to keep up its protests in London over the coming two weeks and has warned that it is also planning to peacefully occupy London City Airport.
The civil disobedience, which so far has led to the arrests of about 600 activists, is being organized from Trafalgar Square and the vicinity, which has become the temporary home for hundreds of people who have arrived from all over the United Kingdom and beyond.
Abby, 22, from the south of England, told EFE that she came 173 kilometers (107 miles) to camp in the crypt of a local church.
Around her neck was hung a sign saying “Crusty,” a term meaning “vagrant” recently used by conservative British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to refer to the demonstrators.
“Parliament has declared a climate emergency and our leader, instead of being proactive, mocks people who are actually doing something,” Abby said.
That’s a joke that was rejected Wednesday morning by Johnson’s own father, Stanley, who came to the square to show his support for the climate movement, saying that what Extinction Rebellion is doing is “extremely important” and noting that “From tiny acorns, big movements spring.”
The movement was created a year ago in the UK and so far it has staged climate protests in about 50 countries, with Berlin, Paris, New York, Melbourne and Madrid springing up as other epicenters of the international “rebellion.”
The environmental movement not only transcends physical borders, it also “transcends ideological, generational and social boundaries. It’s a matter that concerns us all,” Jonathan, another of the London activists, told EFE holding his sleeping two-year-old daughter against his chest.
There’s a section of Trafalgar Square devoted exclusively to families, and inside the three tents set up there is an improvised daycare center with toys, books and other fun things to hold children’s attention.
Sitting on the ground there, surrounded by paints and small brushes, is Vivian, 36, who spends the mornings painting the faces of dozens of kids who are part of the camp. “Thank God I don’t have children. In the condition our planet is, if I had children, I would be very concerned about their future,” she said.
“We don’t want to create panic, we want people to know that this is the right path. We, the people, are much bigger than all those politicians who refuse to listen to us,” Vivian added.
Meanwhile, Andy, 47, said he was more “optimistic,” adding that “a global consciousness has finally been created,” although he went on to say “I still think environmental collapse is coming.”
At a citizens assembly held on the square, the activists agreed that they should stage a “Hong Kong style” occupation of London City Airport, among other things, to draw attention to their cause.
“Where are the government’s climate emergency plans? Enough talk, we want action!” said one of the Extinction Rebellion spokespeople at that meeting.
“The government is implementing measures that further accelerate this state of emergency, such as the expansion of airports,” said David, a homeless man who came to the square to join the movement, adding that although he feels more optimistic than he did a year ago, nevertheless “If we continue at this pace we’re going to reach a point where regardless of what we do, the damage will be irreparable.”