Unite to survive

Not a single arrest of climate, ecological and societal crises protesters: a report from the front line at Extinction Rebellion’s (XR) United Action, April 2023

I and around 50 others from North Devon and Torridge attended the massive climate and ecological crisis event in London, on 20-24 April 2023. This report is from the XR North Devon team, but reflects both a regional and national perspective.

Protesters came from across the country from over 200 different organisations, including trade unions, charities and NGOs taking action on poverty, deprivation and failed public services, as well as on the environmental and climate emergencies.  XR recognizes that failure to look after our society ‒ to ensure proper healthcare, education, housing and employment ‒ is totally interconnected with failure to act on the climate and ecological crises. The event in London, popularly called ‘The Big One’, but also organised on the Friday under the title ‘Unite to Survive’, focused on these key issues.

Some people stayed for a few hours, others managed all four days. All shared the same hopes and fears for society and our future.  Previous extreme tactics may have put many off XR, but over this four-day period there were absolutely no arrests connected with the event. Talks from January 2023 onwards ensured that everything went amicably and collaboratively with London Marathon organisers and the police.

There were pickets outside all government departments on both the Friday and the Monday of the event. On Earth Day, 22 April, a massive march – estimated at 60,000 people – stretched all the way from Horseguards Parade to Lambeth Bridge and finished with a ‘die-in’ in front of Parliament: everyone silently lying flat on the road or pavement, symbolising the mass destruction and even extinctions of wild creatures which are happening right now. 

On the Sunday, while the London marathon took place, there were workshops and assemblies, and outreach to members of the public. A final march through a more central area of London took place on the Monday afternoon, followed by speeches from activist leaders outside the Houses of Parliament.

XR have three core demands to government: Tell the Truth, Act Now and Decide Together. This means:

  • an immediate end to all new fossil fuel licences and an end to the fossil fuel era;
  • citizens’ assemblies (a more specific request from this event); and
  • a fair society, that includes reparation.

If these demands are not met, then further action will take place which may or may not be as peaceable as The Big One, but the peaceful and welcoming spirit of 20-24 April has encouraged far more people to join XR than ever before.

Over 65 per cent of the public support non-violent disobedience and 80 per cent now know we have a climate and ecological crisis. XR have achieved direct impact in a number of areas.  For example, four major banks have announced they are not going to fund fossil fuels in the future. However, there is still, clearly, a long way to go.