XR to target Westminster for ‘the Big One’ and four days of protest

Environment Events Policy & Politics Westminster

XR (Extinction Rebellion) have warned the government of “unprecedented” civil disobedience with more than 30,000 activists signed up to protest around Westminster for four days, starting on Friday (April 21).

A coalition of almost 200 environmental and social justice groups– including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, XR and the PCS Union – are demanding ministers stop issuing licences for new fossil fuel projects. They also want “emergency citizen’ assemblies” established to decide the best way to end the reliance on fossil fuels.

The environmental group vowed the government has until 5pm on Monday (April 24) to respond or they would escalate their campaign “in new and inventive ways”.

If the government fails to respond XR will design a “plan for the greatest acts of civil disobedience in this country’s history” said Rob Callender, a representative of the group.

XR stepping up its campaign against new licences for gas, oil and coal projects could include activists joining striking workers on picket lines, according to the Financial Times.

Last month the government admitted its new net zero strategy will not hit its own targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, raising questions over Rishi Sunak’s commitment to combat climate change.

“The government is failing in its duty to protect us and we are calling for that to end,” said 43-year-old activist Hester Campbell, 43, who delivered the ultimatum to the government along with her two children and her father.

In a statement on its website, XR said: “The invitation is for everybody to Unite to Survive at ‘The Big One’ – a four day action from the 21st to the 24th April 2023, where people from all groups and movements, not just XR, will gather throughout Westminster and at the Houses of Parliament.”

They state the Big One will be family friendly, creative, engaging, accessible and friendly as the streets are “transformed with People’s Pickets outside government departments and a diverse programme of speakers, performers and workshops, awash with colour and culture. There will be art and music, talks from experts, places to listen and engage, and activities for the kids.”

The four days of protest are themed, Friday being ‘Unite to Survive’ followed on Saturday by ‘Earth Day’. Sunday is ‘Running Out of Time” which – despite the Independent reporting on concerns the protests could disrupt Sunday’s London marathon – organisers say “coexists” with the event. Monday is ‘Choose Your Future’ when XR’s demand to politicians is delivered as parliament returns.

Urging people to join in, the statement continues: “Every single person makes us collectively more powerful, and makes our voices harder for the Government to ignore.

“Just imagine what thousands of us working together could do. We can make this the biggest climate protest ever held in the UK – something that is talked about for generations.

“We can bring about change. We can turn the tide. But first, we need to show up.”

The Met police has promised an “engaging but firm” presence over the four days. While XR said its protest is not intended to be disruptive, members of Just Stop Oil are expected to be present. Unlike XR, which announced a change of tactics and less disruptive protests to further its campaign, Just Stop Oil and other groups have continued high-profile protests, using disruption to gain attention for their cause.

On Monday, Just Stop Oil activists targeted the snooker world championships in Sheffield, forcing the vent to be temporarily suspended.

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