extinction rebellion

We Are Here for All of Us

May 26, 2019

Extinction Rebellion is a global movement which exercises civil disobedience to transform environmental policies in parliament. You can find out more here at https://rebellion.earth/

In April last month, 'Extinction Rebellion' held a successful 10 day long protest covering five major key sites in London. Amongst their daily accomplishments, they succeeded in gaining many more supporters, grabbing media attention world wide. On Wednesday the 24th of April, I was arrested at the Marble Arch road block and taken away to the Wandsworth cells, here is my story.

After an incredible ten days of protests, I awoke to find the last of the remaining road blocks at Marble Arch being dismantled. I had mixed feelings to see them go, but in a jubilant testament of celebration not surrender, a djembe band had arrived and were drumming their beats up and down the eerily empty roads. The energy was close to ecstatic and evoked in me emotions which intensified into tears of joy. Over the past ten days, a tiny but mighty force had gathered here in London. Fighting in the face of adversity, managing to make a stand against a legal authority who where lording it's power to blindly regain hold of it's financial goals. The police (law enforcers) were in notably larger number today, and I could sense a feeling of agitation from their ranks as they prepared for the imminent road opening. I followed the djembe band for a while, dancing along to the main stage where more numbers came to join us. But despite the joyous carnival of drums, a strange feeling kept pulling my thoughts back to the road blocks on Oxford Road. Reluctantly I left the party and wandered back over for one last look around. At the far end of the road towards Oxford Circus, I could see a group of people crowded around a small yellow tent. As I approached, I found two guys inside, their arms 'locked-on'* to each other, whilst the crowd where engaged in a debate.

I listened for a while. Some where trying to convince the men to leave, others where unsure of a course of action, while the general feeling from the tent was to stay and defend their post! A feeling of unease reminiscent from the morning came over me. Weighing on my mind was a feeling of confusion in seeing the roadblocks being given up a day ahead of schedule, so I joined the discussion to offer my opinion. My question to the group was why where our last remaining roadblocks, our 'greatest power' under negotiation with Met police over the vague promises of lorries or closing ceremonies.  Surely our roadblocks were here for a higher purpose: - for the advancement of environmental policies in parliament. So to de-man a station for anything less just didn't seem right. This opinion seemed to lift the spirits of the two protesters and again the decision making was thrown back in the air. The crowd asked for a vote, who would be in favour to stay and face arrest? But I was silent, I really, really didn't want to be arrested, and kept my hand firmly down. More time was requested but by then it was too late. The police began to move in and surround us. The 'kettling'* had begun.  
My next actions came from nowhere, but only as an instinct which reflected my inner thoughts and beliefs. In a wave of solidarity for the last two 'lonely' guys, who were doing what they believed in, and in what I believed in too, I jumped straight in the tent, and squeezed myself in right alongside them. 

The police were immediately on us, click - click, the long zoom lens of the 'liaison officers' camera had certainly just added me to their ever increasing list of 'domestic extremists'. In my mind, there was no going back, this was what it felt like to be the 'good guy', risking everything to make a stand for the rights of every living being on the planet. I tangled myself up in-between my two new friends Will and Alex and got on with my new task at hand. How I was going to remain in the tent for as long as it was going to take. I was particularly interested by the 'lock-on' device the guys were using. Each had an arm chained to each other inside a sturdy plastic tube and the only way out was to be cut out! I decided to stick my hand inside the edge of the tube which convincingly looked like I was somehow part of a mysterious three way device. So with nothing to lose, I decided to stay like that, unbeknown to the officers who would later come to extract us, that I could easily have been pulled out.

As I settled in for the long haul, Will one handedly, handed out some cards, "Lets read this out together" he suggested in an effort to raise our spirits. On the cards were written the verses of the 'Solemn Intention Statement', and we started to recited it together.

Let's take a moment, this moment, to
consider why we are here.
Let's remember our love , for this beautiful
planet that feeds, nourished and sustains us.
Lets remember our love for the whole
of humanity in all corners of the world.
Lets recollect our sincere desire to
protect all this, for ourselves, for all living
beings, and for generations to come.
As we act today, may we find the
courage to bring a sense of peace, love and
appreciation to everyone we encounter,
to every word we speak and to every
action we make. We are here for all of us.

We recited it again, and then again, and again. We recited the verses almost continuously over the next two hours, while we were arrested, while we were read our rights, and while we were being cut out and carried away.
As the power of this heartfelt message echoed off.. towards our arresting officers, towards the band of rebellion supporters and out onto the streets of oxford road, I forgot my fears of what was lying in wait as our futures hung in the balance. The unison of our voices, and the energy this invoked carried me far far away, and somehow it became the most incredible two hours of my life.

After a while, I started to tune into a chorus of excited and distressed voices behind us. We couldn't move much in our position, but Will managed to turn around just enough to see a large band of rebel supporters had gathered and were sitting behind our tent. I was filled with love, grateful for this support but the commotion had signalled the start of something. The police were picking them off one by one. The loading up of rebels had begun.     

We three were arrested much earlier on the floor of the yellow tent, but of course we had to wait for the cutting team to arrive. We were asked all sorts of questions as they tried to gain an understanding of the mysterious three way device but I preferred to keep my focus on the verses, after all it was a protest, and I didn't want to make it too easy for them. The removal of the lock-on tube was a strange experience. There was some concern in having someone saw away so close to my hand, but we were parted soon enough and carried off to the waiting van. I made my body go limp like a rag doll so they had quite a bit of trouble loading me in to the back where the other protesters sat.  After a few failed attempts they gave up and I ended up in the middle section alongside the arresting officers. As I buckled up for the ride, I was in disbelief to see that none of the police officers had bothered to wear their seatbelts as I had done. So, I decided to make a point of it and asked my arresting officer to turn on her body camera so I could make an 'on the record' statement. I questioned why Met police officers supposed upholders and indeed prosecutors of the law where knowingly engaging in a criminal activity. Surprisingly I was met with absolute unconcern. No one even batted an eyelid except my arresting officer who offered to put hers on to make me happy, never mind the law!? 

Some time later my fellow arrestees pressed their heads to the glass which separated our compartments. As they peered around, our eyes made contact and I was filled with warmth as we exchanged comforting smiles. I was at that point feeling a bit sorry for myself, thinking it must be nice to be in the back, sharing laughs and jokes with the rest of them. But then, the most wonderful thing started to happen! Out of nowhere, being chanted upon high was a loud chorus of none other than "SEATBELT REBELLION"! Embarrassment was the appropriate term for the atmosphere in my compartment and I was filled with reassurance. I was glad to hear I wasn't they only one with concerns, and we rebels were all on the same wavelength here!

On arrival at the 'nick'*, I realised I was rather unprepared for the arrest. I hadn't gone to any Extinction Rebellion preparatory training sessions, and I had lost the list of solicitors given to me by the legal witness in the tent. I decided to play it safe and managed to keep up a 'no comment' default during the check-in, which was going nicely until out popped my drivers licence revealing my name (better luck next time). As my arresting officer continued to empty the contents of my handbag she came across a little plastic 'baggie'* with a rather suspicious looking lump inside. She turned to me,

"Is that hash" she said, her eyes wide!
"No" I replied, "it's a medicinal mushroom its called chaga".
"Eh is it magic mushroom"? (clearly she was not very used to dealing with the straight laced hippy type)
"No it's just makes a herbal medicinal tea.. honest"!

After confirming the chaga did have the faintest of mushroom smells, and because the next thing she pulled out of my handbag was a tiny tea strainer, she seemed happy enough to believe me. After check-in, I was taken into a separate room to have my face, finger prints and DNA recorded. And then I began to wonder... I knew the first two requests were pretty mandatory but I was doubtful about giving a DNA sampling. I recalled something about certain activities not being DNA recordable and surely suspicion of sitting in the road, was not of the variety to require a sample such as suspicion of rape or murder. As I have developed a healthy level of caution when it comes to dealing with Met police officers over the years, I thought it best to listen to the voice of reason instead of the continued demands of the officer in charge.  On the principle of this argument, I refused to give consent to my details to be taken and was lead away to my cell until I could confirm things with my solicitor.

Three hours later, I was finally able to speak with a kind representative at Bindmans. Bless his soul, as he took the time to trawl through his law journals to find out where I stood on DNA recording. But alas, I didn't have a leg to stand on as the existing law is geared towards population of the national DNA database irrespective of human rights. Still, the principle of not cooperating for something I didn't believe in was firmly within my control and some time later I received another prison cell visit from the 'boys in blue'*. They tried again to persuaded me into cooperating to give my sample but I remained fixed on my position. In a final attempt, the officer proceeded to point out they could and would take my hair by force, and they were going to be needing a substantial amount! "Okay fine". I said in compete acceptance of my situation and away he went in frustration.

As the hours passed it was close to midnight when my solicitor finally arrived. Under his advice I gave a no comment interview. It seemed disappointing to all involved, especially as the questions seemed oh so very interesting, but I was ready to play it safe. I couldn't stand being 'banged-up'* for a moment longer. The continuous buzzing of the custody cell with all it's cctv and lighting circuit boards had taken it's toll.  Bleary eyed from lack of sleep I was thoroughly fed up! I even opened my mouth to allow them to take a cheek swab in the end - what a softy I had become! 

At 3.30 am, I was released from my cell and brought to the desk to learn my fate. They had decided not to make any immediate charges and I would be released under investigation, translating to 'keep your nose-clean* for the next 6 months', before being turfed out onto the mean streets of Wandsworth. A light drizzle had started, and I was without jacket, bus or a clue of how to get back. One would think there would be a common sense policy in regards to releasing alone women in the middle of the night, but of course one does not exist. I was lucky to be received into the loving arms of a beautiful extinction rebellion support worker who pointed me to his car boot filled with snacks and a blanket but for many arrested women in England this would be a different ending. 

Here is one story out of many thousands, marking one day and night of resistance and rebellion. Perhaps you may read this and think of me as a stubborn or uncooperative person, but I hope that my reasons are clear. My approach comes from a belief that we are living in a time where we need to start to look for the truth in all aspects of our lives. It is never really a question of the state taking our power away, it is about us giving it away, time and time again. I would also like to touch upon an issue which I have heard spoken of quite often 'can we trust the police'? While I can say that I have met many personable police officers, each of them a caring human being like you and me. It is important to remember it is the collective institution to which they are bound that will always take precedence for their actions. While you might meet officers appearing sympathetic to you or your cause at the end of the day it is not they who are calling the shots they are simply following orders to carry out the 'dirty work' of the powers at the top. 

Kettling                               A police tactic for surrounding and restricting protester movement
Lock-on / locked-on            A method/device for temporarily keeping two or more protesters together
Baggie                                A small plastic bag used to sell and store illegal drugs
Nick                                    Police station
Boys in blue                       Police
Banged up                          Locked up in a cell 
Keep your nose clean        Staying on the right side of the law