15th October 2019
Over 100 people from Totnes have taken to the streets of London to protest government inaction on the climate emergency and ecological destruction, with at least 12 local people arrested so far. They joined concerned citizens from across the country in the October Rebellion, two weeks of non-violent direct action by Extinction Rebellion (XR), which began on Monday 7 October.
XR is what I have been waiting for all my adult life,
Groups from the South West, including Totnes and Area XR, occupied Lambeth Bridge for around three hours on the first day of the rebellion. The peaceful protesters sat down in the middle of the road until physically removed by police. Gill Coombs, 55, from Staverton, was arrested on Lambeth Bridge and released without charge pending further enquiry. She had already been arrested in April, during an 11-day XR occupation of Waterloo Bridge: “The officer taking my mug shot said she thought what we’re doing is beautiful, and that XR arrestees in April had been the most polite people she’d met”.
“XR is what I have been waiting for all my adult life,” she said. “Our motivation is preserving a living earth for future generations of all beings. There can be no greater incentive than that.”
Totnes and area residents have joined actions on every day of the rebellion – in the City of London, outside City Airport, BBC Broadcasting House, and several government departments including MI5 and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).Twelve local people were confirmed arrested as of Tuesday, 15 October, a number that is very likely to increase as more information emerges. According to the Metropolitan Police, a total of more than 1,400 people had been arrested and 76 charged across London as of 14:00 on Monday, 14 October. Inga Page, 62, from Ashburton, was also arrested on Lambeth Bridge. “Everyone I know in XR feels uneasy about making other people’s already stressful lives more difficult and about making the police spend so much time dealing with us,” she said. “But we have spent years signing petitions, politely marching in our thousands, writing to MPs and the media, handing out leaflets and donating to pressure groups. After 30 years of this, climate change and extinction was still just one of those issues that gets stuck on the end of the agenda. If enough people show they feel strongly enough, just maybe it will move to the top of the agenda where it belongs.”
Many of the London protests by South West XR groups have centred around food and farming. Tony Whitehead, from Extinction Rebellion in the South West said: “We are in trouble. Drought and heat waves are killing crops. Pesticides are killing wildlife. We are losing our precious soil and millions are undernourished right now. International crop failures will have catastrophic impacts upon our society especially as the UK is particularly vulnerable to crop failures and food shortages, with 77% of our fruit and veg being imported.” He continued, “There is something very wrong with our global food system, which fails to provide adequate nutrition for millions of people, while driving the planet towards a climate and ecological catastrophe.”
Support for Extinction Rebellion has come from unlikely quarters, including the former chief superintendent for Devon and Cornwall police, Rob Cooper. Now a member of XR, he told Radio Two’s Jeremy Vine show: “I worked to protect the public as a police officer. And I’m trying to do that now. We’re all in this. Nobody can escape the climate emergency. There’s no other planet.”
Totnes MP Sarah Wollaston also visited one of the protest sites on Marsham Street last week. “Now we’ve declared a climate emergency, actions must follow on from that on about, for example, fracking, about leaving fossil fuels in the ground and investing instead in renewables, and really transforming the level of investment,” she said. “I’ve been speaking in parliament about positive changes to active travel. I’m a cyclist and we’re spending just 1.5% of our transport budget on walking and cycling infrastructure. We need a massive shift in priorities.” Holding one of the 1,000 trees donated by XR to MPs and Houses of Parliament staff, she said: “What I’d really like is for people around the Totnes constituency to say where they’d like me to come and plant it. I’m very happy to come and plant it, mind you it may be the kiss of death for any plant.”
Climate Change – Is it a fiction as narrated by Donald J Trump? Well, obviously we can’t take his word on it so what are the facts?