“Taking direct action is the most empowering thing you can do.”
Transition Town Lewes talks to Mark Engineer from Extinction Rebellion Lewes about the upcoming national rebellion in London on 9 April focused on fossil fuels, the urgent need for new recruits, his Mum and Priti Patel.
TTL: So XR is rebelling again?
Mark: We never stopped rebelling! But the next wave of national rebellion begins at 9am on Saturday 9 April in Hyde Park.
TTL: What’s the one most important thing you have to say to our readers?
Mark: That we need your help! I’ve no doubt some of you are XR members already. Those who aren’t are likely to be supportive. We do value that support. But we also need you to get involved.
To paraphrase Bob Geldof without the sweary bits – there are people dying NOW. So come and join us. Don’t go to the pub this week; come to an XR meeting instead. Or one of our talks. Hang on – most of our talks are held in pubs. It’s a win-win!
Give us your time, your energy, your creativity. Summon up that Lewesian rebellion spirit! Taking direct action is the most empowering thing you can do.
TTL: Is what XR is doing really making a difference?
Mark: Yes – it is really working. We’ve seen the UK Parliament declare a climate emergency and enshrine a Net Zero target into law. Everyone’s talking about the climate emergency now. These things aren’t coincidences. They’re wins. It’s worked throughout history. Workers’ rights, civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, disabled rights…those things didn’t just happen. The people in power didn’t suddenly get nicer. All were won through civil disobedience.
TTL: How has Covid affected the movement?
Mark: It’s been a nightmare, to be honest. We haven’t been able to undertake mass protest for most of the last two years. We haven’t been able to gather in person. As a result, we’ve not had the collective energy, the joy, that made XR so important to so many people. Rebelling on Zoom just ain’t the same. And we’ve seen numbers drop off as a result.
Things are changing now. We’ve had some local events, and it’s been wonderful to see some of that old colour and joy. But numbers are still low, way too low. And that’s why…sorry, stuck record time…we need more people.
I know we’ve had two years of Covid, and now we’ve got a terrible war and a cost of living crisis, and we’re all bloody knackered. But we all need to find the courage to face the crisis and the energy and will to do something about it. Otherwise…well, the future doesn’t look bright.
TTL: How will the action on 9 April differ from previous rebellions?
Mark: I’d say clarity of focus. In the past we’ve perhaps spread ourselves too thinly. This rebellion will be centred around a new demand – that the UK Government stops investing in fossil fuels. Because the fossil fuel economy is what’s driving the climate emergency. It’s at the heart of climate injustice, and the stream of crises we’ve had over the last few years – Covid, Ukraine, the spiralling cost of living. It all links up. We need to get away from our addiction to fossil fuels, or it’ll take us down with it. So, clear, ferocious focus, through the rebellion and beyond. Oh, and sheer weight of numbers. Did I mention we need new people?
TTL: Where will you be focusing this, erm, focus?
Mark: We’ll be targeting strategically important sites within the fossil fuel industry.
TTL: Can you be any more specific?
Mark: I could, but then I’d have to kill you, and all your subscribers… Ha! Just kidding. I can’t tell you because I don’t know. And even if I did know, I couldn’t tell you. It’s a secret! If they know what to expect, it’ll spoil the surprise.
TTL: Will you need people to be arrested?
Mark: Yes. But as always, we need people to do all kinds of stuff. Behind each arrestee is a network of supportive rebels doing all kinds of work from food to back office, police station support, legal teams, regen and more. We realise everyone has a unique set of circumstances, and not everyone can intentionally risk arrest. If you can make it to London, do. If you can’t don’t worry, because there’s loads you can do from here.
TTL: Are you expecting much backlash from Government and the police?
Mark: Yup. Last time they used the Public Order Act 1986 to try and stop us. And previously, they used tactics that were found to be illegal. They’ve gone out of their way to demonise us, even called us terrorists. And then there’s the PCSC Bill. It’s all part of a continued pattern of attacks on our civil liberties, driven by a Home Secretary who clearly has a poisonous hatred of legitimate protest. I said to my Mum the other day, “Priti Patel is an implacable enemy.” Her reply? “Good. You’re clearly doing something right.”
No doubt they’ll have some new wheeze to try and stop us. But we’re ready for them. Or to use Lewesian parlance, we wun’t be druv!
TTL: If people in Lewes want to get involved in the 9 April action, what should they do?
Mark: Folks can find out more at our website https://xrlewes.org/ or the main XR website https://extinctionrebellion.uk/ Anyone wanting to go to London should get some training in NVDA (non violent direct action.) Email us and we’ll be able to arrange that.
To get involved generally, email firstname.lastname@example.org