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As Support for Extinction Rebellion Soars, Group Says London Occupations Will End But 'International Rebellion' Will Continue

The global movement says it will stop occupying London landmarks on Thursday, as lawmakers agree to meeting

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott of the British Labour Party holds a letter from Extinction Rebellion at a rally on Wednesday. Abbott and other Labour leaders have indicated they will agree to some of the movement's demands for climate action. (Photo: @ExtinctionR/Twitter)

With a surge of political support among the broader public and a possible meeting with top government officials, the climate action group Extinction Rebellion in the U.K. on Wednesday announced it would soon end its occupation of public spaces in London even as it vowed to fight on for its demands to be met.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove agreed Wednesday to meet with leaders, who announced shortly after that they would voluntarily leave city landmarks Thursday.

The group said that the possible meeting with Gove was "totally unconnected" to their decision to end the London protests in the short-term. The planned wind-down of the demonstrations also followed a surge of public support, including from members of the opposition Labour Party.

"This movement is not just about symbolic actions, but about building the necessary resilient and regenerative culture that the world needs now. The truth is out, the real work is about to begin. The international rebellion continues," the group said in a statement.

Surrounded by protesters in Parliament Square, lawmaker Diane Abbott, who serves as Labour's shadow home secretary, said the U.K. and the world are facing a climate emergency.

"You've done an amazing job drawing people's attention to the climate emergency," Abbott told the group. "In all the noise and kerfuffle of Brexit, the climate emergency is the most important issue facing us."

Abbott also said she was aware of and "broadly supports" Extinction Rebellion's other demands—to bring fossil fuel emissions down to net zero by 2025 and to create a People's Assembly to discuss climate policies which would be in the public's best interest.

Abbott's comments were met with applause by members of the group in attendance and came more than a week after Extinction Rebellion began occupying London landmarks including Oxford Circus and the Marble Arch, refusing to leave until the government agrees to meet their demands.

The movement reports that since thousands of it supporters began the demonstrations, public support for its cause is on the rise.

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About 30,000 new backers have donated money or volunteered with the group since it began occupying London on April 15, and new donations total nearly £200,000 ($258,000), with most contributions ranging from just £10 to £50.

"What this shows is that Extinction Rebellion has spoken to people who have been wanting to act on this for such a long time but haven't known how," a spokesperson for the group told the Guardian. "The debate on this is over—ordinary people are now saying it is time for politicians to act with real urgency."

Shadow energy secretary Barry Gardiner compared Extinction Rebellion and other mass climate justice protests to major, successful movements of the 20th century.

"All of those victories were won by citizens uniting against injustice, making their voice heard. And Extinction Rebellion and the school climate strikers are doing just that," Gardiner said Tuesday.

On social media, supporters of the movement applauded both Labour and Extinction Rebellion.

The lawmakers' endorsements of the protests, and Gove's agreement to a meeting, came two days after Swedish climate action leader Greta Thunberg addressed members of Parliament regarding their decades of inaction.

"Sometimes we just simply have to find a way," Thunberg told the legislators. "The moment we decide to fulfill something, we can do anything. And I'm sure that the moment we start behaving as if we were in an emergency, we can avoid climate and ecological catastrophe."

"We must start today," Thunberg added.

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