Protecting our Right to Protest

On Saturday 1st May, members of XR Warwick District, along with people from a wide range of local organisations (including Keep Our NHS Public, Justice for Palestinians, Warwickshire National Education Union and Socialist Appeal), as well as youth climate strikers and others, formed a physically distanced protest of around 100 people to oppose the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill that has recently had its second reading in Parliament.


Here's what Ali, XRWD member representing our group, said at the demo (click the link to see a video of this on the XRWD Facebook page)

"Hi, I'm Ali and I'm a member of Extinction Rebellion Warwick District, which includes Leamington, Warwick and Kenilworth. Extinction Rebellion was set up to make certain demands using the vehicle of non-violent, direct action. We are calling on the government to tell the truth about the climate emergency and act on it. And we believe civil disobedience is the best chance we have to get the change we need for this emergency in the short time we have left.

Think back over your knowledge of British history. I'm guessing you can think of plenty of times when the people of this country have taken to the streets to call for change.

  • The abolition of slavery
  • votes for women
  • Hunger marches
  • Miners' strikes
  • Poll tax riots
  • Gay rights marches

The list could go ON AND ON.

These will all have been disruptive. But disruption gets noticed. People listen and the message gets reported and amplified. And that's what brings about change.

In recent years, the peaceful protests of Extinction Rebellion and the Youth Climate Strikes have helped to bring the climate crisis into the media and into public awareness. Now people in this country overwhelmingly believe that climate change is a real threat to the future of life on earth. Would this have happened without the protests and actions of XR and the youth strikes? I doubt it...

In the UK we are proud of our 'democratic right' to be able to protest... proud of the fact that, as one MP put it recently, ours is not a country of authoritarianism, autocracy or even the dark slide into facism. And yet this bill is all but removing our right to protest, and it has been voted through by every single Conservative MP, with no votes of support from any other party.

In pushing through this new bill, the government is making it all too easy for the police to shut down protests simply for making too much noise... even a protest of just ONE person. Right now, today, people from XR are carrying out a Rebellion of ONE. ONE person is going into the road and sitting down (with carefully managed support at the sidelines of course). They are putting themselves on the line and at risk of arrest because they feel it's all they can do to show how urgently climate action is needed.

The Bill will also make a large exclusion zone around Parliament. Last September, Parliament Square was the focus of the September Rebellion for XR. I was there. We peacefully blockaded roads. We were respectful to the police. When Caroline Lucas MP tabled the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill in the House of Commons she could hear our support outside in Parliament Square. Is it right that peaceful protests of this kind that are likely to result in real change are as good as outlawed?

Public protest changes our country for the better and holds our politicians to account over their decisions and actions. In XR Warwick District, we are grateful to be part of this coalition of local organisations opposing this bill. Thank you to everyone here for coming out today.”