Last week’s occupation of Waterloo Bridge and the demonstration at Shell Centre has made Lambeth a key site for Extinction Rebellion’s (XR) civil disobedience programme.
The group’s ‘international rebellion’ launched on 15 April in an attempt to make the government act on climate change with sit-ins, protests and marches occurring throughout London.
Since its inception at a climate talk in Brixton in February, XR Lambeth has grown into a group of 130 volunteers many of whom are new to activism.
Ahead of the ‘international rebellion’, the group raised awareness in the borough through leaflets and posters and by showing films, holding inductions and non-violent direct action training.
Yesterday evening we spoke to several members of XR Lambeth at Marble Arch, the remaining designated protest area.
What future for our children?
Steve Tooze, 55, lives in Brixton with his partner and two children.
As a Media Analyst he keeps abreast of environmental news and the publication of last year’s damming UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report compounded Steve’s growing fears.
He said: “I looked at my children on the other side of the breakfast table in the morning when they were talking about their future and I had to go into the lounge and cry. I thought: ‘you haven’t got a future, our society is going to fall apart’.”
Steve has been stationed at Marble Arch intermittently since last Monday – during this time he has chained himself underneath lorries and sat in front of police lines for days.
Steve said: “I have never been arrested before but perfectly prepared to take those chances if it means we can get the aims of XR realised and make the government declare a climate emergency and take the radical action needed to save us all.”
Tuning in together: experienced and new activists unite
Bells Davidson works in film and has been involved with XR Lambeth since inception. She is a seasoned campaigner having been raised in an environmentalist-socialist family.
Bells explained the backgrounds and motivations of XR Lambeth members: “The group has hugged in a lot of local people who have done great work in Lambeth for a Cool Planet and Plastic Free Streatham and a lot of members are from local Green Party and Greenpeace groups.”
She added: “The weather in the last year has been insane. The environment is on the agenda and in people’s minds more. Those tuning into the science of climate change can feel isolated and XR is an amazing way to meet likeminded people. A lot of our members say that.”
Bells hopes the fledging group will build on their presence in the borough by targeting Lambeth’s most polluted roads and by engaging with local schools.
Naomi Baldwin-Webb, 26, works in interior design and Lambeth XR has been her first experience of activism.
She explained her reasons for joining: “It is hard to feel the terror of climate change and then politely write a letter to your MP. It is another thing to feel like you are taking matters into your own hands by doing a roadblock or taking over a bridge.
“It so much more immediate and emotionally powerful and this is the first group I have come across that has taken the matter seriously and willing to risk personal freedoms for a greater vision.”
Lambeth locals engage
George, 27, has lived in the borough for six years and become increasingly concerned about the effects of climate change.
“I have read more and more about the environment over the last four to five years and I felt sad. Suddenly when I saw there was a group of people organising collectively, I was amazed and came along”, said George.
The response from locals has been fantastic, George explained: “We have not had to worry about recruitment yet. The trouble for us is actually joining people fast enough.
“We have had fifty people join since Monday and fifty join in the previous two weeks.”
Mechanical engineer Alex Pepper, 28, lives in Camberwell and believes some unique attributes of Lambeth explain the positive response.
He said: “People here are very open minded. The borough is multi-cultural and with a history of political activism. It is surprising how easy it was to find people to join what seemed a far-fetched idea a few weeks ago.”
Lambeth XR’s next meeting will take place between 7pm – 9pm on Wednesday 1st May at Brixton’s Effra Social.