The Big One Climate Protest London begins

The weekend-long event could attract 100,000 to the UK capital, piling more pressure on the uneasy relationship between activists and authorities. 

Ahead of tomorrow’s Earth Day 2023, tens of thousands of protestors are expected in London today for The Big One. Running from Friday 21st to Monday 24th April, organisers claim it will be the most diverse, inclusive and impactful direct action Britain has ever seen. 

The Big One Climate Protest

Led by Extinction Rebellion, 200 NGOs, charities, religious groups, unions, local and national businesses are involved. These include Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion, Global Justice Now, Vegetarians’ International Voice for Animals, Christian Climate Action, Friends of the Earth, Patagonia, The Climate Reality Project, Equity, CND, NHS Staff Voices, Black Lives Matter, Music Declares Emergency, Muslim LGBT Network, Ecosia, The People’s Assembly, Fashion Declares, Ecotricity, and many more. You can find a full list here.

Perceived political inaction, increased prevalence of extreme weather events, continued rise in fossil fuel use and associated emissions, alongside recent approvals of new oil and gas exploration and drilling projects in the North Sea will be high on the agenda. Recent reports by both the Climate Change Committee and Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change have pointed to negligent attitudes on the part of leaders in tackling the environmental crisis, and a lack of preparedness for climate change already ‘locked-in’. 

‘The UK government is failing to deliver the kind of wholesale action needed to avoid full-blown climate breakdown,’ said Mel Evans, Greenpeace UK’s Head of Climate. ‘That’s despite the stark warnings of ‘act now, or it will be too late’ from the global scientific community.’

Speaking on BBC’s Politics Live programme, Tory MP Tim Loughton accused some of those threatening civil disobedience with criminal activities, encouraging them to engage in the democratic electoral process instead. 

Recently introduced laws have given UK police forces greater powers to stop protests through broader definitions of what constitutes disruption. The term now includes anything perceived to cause significant delays to the delivery of time-sensitive products, and the prolonged disruption of access to essential goods and services. The latter covers money, food, water, energy, and fuel, among other things.

However, last month some of Britain’s leading barristers signed a declaration they would refuse to prosecute environmental activism. More than 120 lawyers have also joined, promising to ‘withhold services in respect of supporting new fossil fuel projects and action against climate protesters exercising their right of peaceful protest’.

A ‘declaration of conscience’ has called on legal professionals to ‘act urgently to do whatever they can to address the causes and consequences of the climate and ecological crises and to advance a just transition’. This is based on a view that climate breakdown itself poses an existential threat to the rule of law in all countries. 

As stewards of God’s creation, we have a responsibility to doing whatever we can to act sustainably and protect the world we live in. Across the globe, we are already seeing the impact of climate change affecting lives and communities, particularly in some of the poorest parts of the world. Motivated by our own faith and our care for all of God’s people, we are committed here in London to reducing our carbon emissions as far and as fast as possible,’ The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally DBE, said of this weekend’s protests. 

‘With the cost of living and climate crises escalating and government action failing to match the scale of these emergencies, we think it’s vital to be part of this demonstration bringing together diverse organisations from across environmental, health, housing, workers and social justice movements,’ said Dave Timms, Head of Public Affairs at Friends of the Earth. ‘“It’s also an important time to be defending and supporting the right to peaceful protest as it’s increasingly under threat from multiple angles, including the use of anti-protest injunctions, and draconian legislation like the Public Order Bill.’

Image: Extinction Rebellion

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