Global Newsletter #76

Big Enough?

Friday, May 12, 2023 by Extinction Rebellion

Rebels march through London and call for an end to fossil fuels during The Big One.

This issue: XR UK’s The Big One | South America Earth Day | US Bank Takeover |

Dear rebel,

At the start of this year, XR UK announced it was (temporarily) giving up public disruption. Instead, they would prioritise public attendance, reaching out beyond their own movement to build a mass protest where arrest was unlikely and sheer volume would force the government into negotiation.

The protest would win the support (and the supporters) of other eco-groups, trade unions, community organisations and charities. It would be the most inclusive and accessible rebellion ever. It would be The Big One.

Last Generation smear ecocidal corporations with fake oil during Berlin’s Rebellion.

You can find out whether this bold tactical shift bore big enough fruit by heading to Action Highlights. There you can also read about rebellions in two more cities, with rebels blockading the banks of New York and smearing the climate-criminals of Berlin.

We also report on a wave of inspiring Earth Day actions in South America, with 23 XR groups rising up across the continent. Rebels staged ariel dances in Colombia, a nuclear disaster in Brazil, and rallied against mining laws outside Chile’s parliament. Find out much more in Action Highlights.

A dance performance in Bogotá, Colombia, part of the ‘Earth in Rebellion’ campaign.

Whether XR UK choose to continue their experiment with civil obedience, or return to the disruptive tactics that defined them, the amazing activist alliance that supported The Big One should be celebrated.

The system that relentlessly pollutes our skies, exploits workers, stokes wars, and plunders the Global South for profit is one and the same, and the sooner we unite, the sooner our shared enemy will be defeated.

The only positive of such an unjust system is how it enriches the soil of activism. New grassroot organisations are sprouting up every day, each with their own focus and tactics. We must keep linking roots, keep cross-pollinating ideas and actions.

It is only through organic experimentation and collaboration between activists that the roadmap to a sustainable planet will be drawn. And draw it we must. Millions are dying right now in its absence, and billions more will die if it cannot be found.

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  • Action Highlights: XR UK’s The Big One, South America’s ‘Earth in Rebellion’, US Bank Takeover, Berlin Spring Rebellion.
  • Action Round-up: Uganda, Italy, Kenya, The Netherlands, UK, Australia, USA, France, Denmark, Zimbabwe.

Action Highlights

The Big One: Broad Alliance Put On "Ignore"

21 - 24 APRIL | London, UK

There were marches so big you had to queue to join them. There were moving speeches, star-studded musical sets, pickets outside government buildings, and peoples' assemblies using clever software to allow ideas to be uploaded and rated.

But there was a key ingredient missing from this rebellion in the city where rebellion first began. And that was disruption. Instead, this would be a rebellion where anyone concerned about the climate crisis could attend without fear of arrest, and sheer numbers would force the government into dialogue. This would be The Big One.

For four days, Westminster became a place of creativity, solidarity, and public assembly.

A direct benefit of this tactical softening was the unprecedented support of over 200 eco and social justice groups, with stalls from many of them lining the stretch of road outside parliament which hosted the 4-day rebellion.

There was also a distinct lack of police. Gone were the colonnades of scowling police officers, swooping in to randomly arrest someone or seize a speaker system. Now we had a small army of smiling rebel stewards, making sure pavements were kept clear, schedules were kept to, and disruption was kept to a minimum.

But this more loving, less rage-filled era also had its problems. After making a lot of fuss about how the rebellion would ruin the neighbouring London Marathon (it didn’t), the British media pretty much ignored The Big One, and so too did the government. Rebels and other activists may have massed at parliament’s doorstep, but clearly the numbers required to get that door to open were not met.

An Algerian refugee talks of his harrowing journey to the UK and how seeking happiness should be a human right.

That’s not to say that attendance figures were bad. At least 60,000 people attended the Earth Day biodiversity march around Westminster, and across the 4 days XR UK’s goal of 100,000 attendees was certainly met.

The Big One’s broad new alliance also brought in fresh faces and enriched actions, like the rally outside the Home Office where an Algerian asylum seeker spoke movingly about his perilous journey across the English Channel before rebels launched 1000s of small pink paper boats in solidarity with migrants everywhere.

XR UK’s open-arm approach, and the amazing activist alliance that resulted, should be celebrated. But for a future Big One to challenge that system, it either needs to be a lot bigger, or a lot more disruptive, or (somehow) both.

Rebel scientists outline the tactical dilemma now facing XR UK.

The rebellion’s final people's assembly showed that the vast majority want to return to disruptive actions, despite the UK’s draconian new protest laws. Whether this might diminish or fire up the fledgling activist alliance remains to be seen.

XR has long been a space where family-friendly actions and spicy civil disobedience can co-exist peacefully, each enriching the movement in their own special way. The hope is that XR UK can now build on the alliances forged during The Big One, and ensure The Next One finds that sweet spot between nice and spicy, between big and attention-grabbing, and makes those in power so agitated they actually open that door.

Tell XR UK what you think should happen next.

South America’s Earth Day Extravaganza!

21 - 26 APRIL | South America

Military police stop a rebel performance about uranium mining in front of the seat of state government. Photo: barbarafreitxs

Rebellion has swept through South America to mark Earth Day. After centuries of unchecked extractivism, 23 XR groups, including rebels in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela, united under the ‘Earth in Rebellion’ (Tierras en Rebeldía) banner to tell governments and corporations that they’ve had enough.

In Brazil, rebels joined Greenpeace activists for a radioactive demonstration in front of the Ceará's state government headquarters. A rebel covered in burns lay before gas-masked figures, a warning of how disaster looms if uranium mining is allowed to continue contaminating the region.

The military police were certainly scared, forcing the activists off the pavement on the grounds that they were violating the building’s security perimeter, and then threatening to call in heavily armed riot police if they didn’t leave.

Rebels in Bogotá dance like bees, rally in the streets, and paint a mural.

In Colombia, XR Bogotá highlighted biodiversity loss in local wetlands and forests by staging a bee-inspired aerial silk dance that included a special message from Mother Nature. After a rally and a street-lecture by a local professor, the action ended with rebels painting an intricate mural together on the tarmac that symbolised the message of the day: Time is running out; transition or extinction.

Rebels protested against the expansion of a huge Anglo American copper mine in central Chile, which threatens the health and water security of all life in the regions of Valparaíso and Santiago. XR Santiago rallied outside the parliament that recently approved the mine’s expansion and called on the Environment Minister to resign.

In Argentina, rebels shared their fears about the climate crisis on the Plaza del Mayo in Buenos Aires, pasted posters overnight across La Plata, and held open-air festivals in Missiones and Gbaoeste.

Poster-pasting in La Plata, Argentina. A rally against deforestation in La Paz, Bolivia.

A coalition of activists including rebels massed at the entrance of Chapultepec park in Mexico City to condemn political inaction on the climate emergency and ecocidal companies like PEMEX, the state-owned oil company. Before a rebel performance where ‘animals’ were doused in PEMEX ‘oil’, there was a one-minute silence for all the activists that had been imprisoned and murdered in the region.

Despite the peacefulness and wide appeal of these actions, environmental activism in South America is highly dangerous: in Colombia alone, 65 environmental defenders were killed in 2020. Regardless of the risk to their lives, the rebels of South America are managing to oppose ecocidal corporations and their negligent governments on an ever-increasing scale.

Rude Awakening For America’s Dirtiest Banks

24 APRIL - 3 MAY | NYC, San Francisco, Charlotte, Washington DC, USA

Rebels spray-paint the windows of bank Wells Fargo, New York City.

In a noisy, multi-day protest spanning ‘Earth Day to May Day’ (and beyond), hundreds of climate activists young and old came together outside three major US banks, demanding an end to their outrageous funding of the fossil fuel industry.

The world’s 60 largest banks have poured $5.5 trillion into fossil fuel projects in the seven years since the Paris Agreement, and three of the worst - Citibank, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America - are based in the US.

Between them, these three banks have invested $932 billion in coal, oil and gas since 2016, and nearly $110 billion in the last year alone. Picking dates that coincided with their AGM's, rebels and other activists in New York, San Francisco and Charlotte, North Carolina headed to the banks' headquarters to cause as much disruption as possible.

A rebel coalition forms outside Citibank in Manhattan, New York City

In New York, a coalition including XR NYC, New York Communities for Change, Rise & Resist, Climate Organizing Hub and Sunrise Movement occupied the plaza outside Citi’s Manhattan HQ for two days. They drummed and danced, held discussions and workshops, sprayed the bank’s windows with the urgent demand for ‘NO NEW OIL’, and slept on the cold concrete with nothing but sleeping bags.

Meanwhile, in Charlotte, North Carolina, activists from Green Faith, Rainforest Action Network, Third Act, and Scientist Rebellion surrounded Bank of America’s HQ, and in San Francisco, rebels and Stop the Money Pipeline activists blockaded Wells Fargo’s main office, orchestrating an impressive banner drop over its entrance.

Protestors in front of a banner drop outside Wells Fargo HQ in San Francisco

Over the next two days, Reclaim Our Tomorrow targeted fossil fuel-supporting investment firms, KKR and BlackRock, in New York’s Hudson Yards. When 75 protesters with pitchforks and fake oil tried to block the entrance to BlackRock, private security and police reacted violently, wrestling activists to the ground and arresting 11.

To round off the week, hundreds more rebels – including from Scientist Rebellion and first-responders’ group Guardian Rebellion – created a lot of noise outside the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington, D.C. And finally, nine rebels locked-on in a street by the Met Gala in New York, blocking a vehicle ferrying celebrities to the event.

Eleven more protestors were arrested in New York for spray-painting Citibank, and branches of Bank of America and Wells Fargo. XR NYC is ensuring they all have support and legal representation as they await their appearance in court.

Berlin Won’t Pay For the Super-Rich

12 - 17 APRIL | Berlin, Germany

Banner: “Proclaim a biodiversity state of emergency!” Photo: Jana Legler

A thousand rebels turned a rainy week in Berlin into a heart-warming week of action! They mobilised across the capital to demand their government declare a biodiversity emergency and convene a citizens' assembly to tackle the climate crisis.

The rebellion started with setting up a base camp in a park in central Berlin, offering rebels free food, workshops, music and support for the week ahead. Several trainings and talks were organised by activists from the Global South, and a general focus of the camp was to promote anti-racism and inclusive action.

The next day, a big demo headed from the park to the Brandenburg Gate. The march featured ironic celebration of the super-rich, and their continued profiting at the expense of everyone else on the planet. As famous ‘billionaires’ prepared their rocket to planet B, suited dinosaurs from the fossil fuel industry partied on.

Left: A giant banner is dropped from a luxury Berlin hotel. Right: Billionaires prepare to board their oh-so-exclusive rocket. Photos: Alex & Eike

The carbon emissions of the richest 1% are more than double the emissions of the poorest half of humanity. So to break up the billionaire’s party, rebels dropped a massive banner from the side of a super-exclusive hotel, making it very clear that we can no longer afford the super-rich!

Activists from Scientist Rebellion and Last Generation also smeared the buildings of a dozen corporations, lobby groups, and political parties who continue to compound environmental destruction. There was a lot of media coverage on this second day of rebellion, and exacerbated by the total lack of climate action from the government, the German public are increasingly supporting these kinds of protests.

Left: XR Drummers set the marching beat. Right: Topless rebels protest on Museum Island. Photos: Jennifer von der Heydt & Eike

After this fantastic start, the rebellion didn’t let up. Animal Rebellion led a big protest against industrial animal agriculture, and there was a flash mob at the city’s Central Station, warning travellers of the need for an immediate species protection programme if we want to save our ecosystems.

The week concluded with several marches and demonstrations focusing on the biodiversity crisis, as well as some smaller, more targeted actions, like the one where a river was dyed green outside the headquarters of agrochemical giant Bayer, or where rebels confronted museum-goers with the naked truth: there’s no art on a dead planet!

With no major police interventions, good media attention, and a wonderful turnout, Berlin’s Spring rebellion was a great success. Throughout the week, a lot of money was raised as well, and a fifth of the donations will go to rebel groups in the Global South.

Action Round-up

10 - 16 APRIL | Global: As delegates arrived for the IMF & World Bank Spring Meeting in Washington, rebels joined Debt For Climate activists to rally outside. Solidarity actions were held around the world, including in Uganda (pictured).

14 APRIL | Italy: Rebel actions were held in Rome, Milan and Bologna to highlight how Italy’s public broadcaster RAI fails to honestly report the severity of the climate crisis. Banners were hung and sit-ins were held outside three of RAI’s main offices.

14 APRIL | Nairobi, Kenya: Activists with the Polly Foundation conduct a day of school eco-education that finishes with tree planting.

17 APRIL | Sheffield, UK: A table at the world snooker championships is doused with powdered dye by a Just Stop Oil activist. No damage was done. Days later, two Just Stop Oil activists were sentenced to 3 years in prison for climbing a bridge in London, the longest ever sentence for a peaceful climate action in UK history.

20 APRIL | Amsterdam, Netherlands: Victory! After a sustained campaign by Scientist Rebellion, Vrije University becomes the second in the world to cut ties with the fossil fuel industry (the first was Princeton in the USA). Get your university to be the third!

21 APRIL | Melbourne, Australia: A dozen rebels pitched their pop-up tents in the foyer of Exxon Mobil's headquarters. An Occupy For Climate rebellion will take place in the city from May 25th to 27th. Commit to going here. Photo: D Judd

21 APRIL | Boston, USA: Hundreds of people gathered outside the Massachusetts State House for an Earth Day rally and die-in organised by XR Boston. It included members from ten other local eco and social groups, as well as members of the public. Photo: Lita XuLing Kelley

22 APRIL | Toulouse, France: XR Toulouse joined with Earth’s Uprisings and other groups to organise an 8,000 strong protest against a new motorway. Activists even built an actual wall across the route, which will widen existing roads between Toulouse and Castres and devastate the local environment.

28 APRIL | Copenhagen, Denmark: As part of the Befri Jorden - Free the Earth - demonstration, rebels transform the street in front of the Danish parliament into a giant garden. The blockade was so large that the police couldn’t arrest everyone, though they managed to arrest over 300! Resilient rebels are planning to return on May 12th.

5 MAY | Mutare, Zimbabwe: Rebels conducted a litter clean-up of the Fern Valley, encouraging locals to join them in caring for their environment.

So many actions happened this month, we can’t fit them all into one newsletter. Find out about actions in Sri Lanka, Serbia, Sweden, Norway, Rwanda & more by reading Newsletter XTRA: A feast for the eyes and extra fuel for the soul!

Read Newsletter XTRA

Thank you

Animals also attended The Big One’s Biodiversity March. Photo: Andrea Domeniconi

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Over de Opstand

Extinction Rebellion is een gedecentraliseerde, internationale en politiek onpartijdige beweging die geweldloze directe actie en burgerlijke ongehoorzaamheid gebruikt om regeringen te overtuigen rechtvaardig te handelen in de klimaat- en ecologische noodsituatie. Onze beweging bestaat uit mensen van alle rangen en standen, die op verschillende manieren bijdragen met de tijd en energie die ze kunnen missen. De kans is groot dat we een lokale groep bij jou in de buurt hebben, en we zouden graag van je horen. ...of .