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The Big One
Matthew Chattle/Future Publishing via Getty Images

The Big One: thousands of climate protestors descend on London

The four-day action, led by Extinction Rebellion, is supported by more than 200 organisations including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth

Thousands of climate activists are flocking to London this weekend as part of ‘The Big One’, a four day action led by Extinction Rebellion between April 21 and 24.

More than 200 organisations are supporting the action, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and Patagonia, plus a number of other environmental NGOs, trade unionists, and activists. Over 30,000 people have signed up to say they’ll attend the action.

The group is calling for the Government to establish “emergency citizens’ assemblies” to decide how to bring about the end of fossil fuel era and establish a fair society that includes reparations.

Speaking to Dazed, Nuala Mai Gathercole Lam, a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion, says: “We’re demanding that the government stop all new licensing for fossil fuel. So that means not looking for any more reserves, it doesn’t mean turning all the taps off immediately. We’re also demanding a citizens’ assembly to lead us through the transition off fossil fuel, so gathering together a group of people that reflects the diversity of our society to make the tough decisions about how we face the crisis.”

According to the Extinction Rebellion website, The Big One will be “awash with colour and culture, the politically powerful streets of Westminster will be transformed with People’s Pickets outside government departments and a diverse programme of speakers, performers and workshops”. The site also adds that the event will be family friendly, accessible and welcoming, creative, and engaging.

“People in the UK know that there’s a climate emergency and are seriously concerned. So we’ve organized in a way that we hope lowers the barriers to entry, to allow large numbers of people to participate because we understand that things change when ordinary citizens step up and put pressure on the government to do the right thing,” Lam adds.

Each of the four days has a different ‘theme’:

  • Friday 21st – Unite to Survive. Westminster is filled with flags, banners and people.
  • Saturday 22nd – Earth Day. An enormous, celebration and family-friendly march for biodiversity.
  • Sunday 23rd – Running Out of Time! The Big One coexists with the London Marathon.
  • Monday 24th – Choose Your Future. Parliament returns, the demand is delivered.

The Big One is the first major action coordinated by Extinction Rebellion since the group announced it was moving away from disruptive tactics to “prioritise attendance over arrest and relationships over roadblocks”.

Ruth MacGilp, 26, attended The Big One’s opening ceremony outside the Houses of Parliament this morning and visited different pickets outside government department buildings. “Even in the heavy rain, there was a really positive energy amongst the crowd,” MacGilp tells Dazed. “Seeing people from so many different walks of life – different ages, religions, unions, organisations, and occupations – was proof that anyone and everyone can be a climate activist in their own way, because the climate crisis will affect us all.”

Lam reiterates this sentiment. “We’ve built a coalition of over 200 groups – if you look at our collective membership, as a coalition, it’s in the 10s of millions. This is the biggest alliance we’ve seen – across the environmental space, but also beyond it,” she says. “It’s a really exciting moment with huge potential for change.”

“We all have different routes in, even if we may not see ourselves as ’activists’,” MacGilp adds, explaining that she first got involved in the climate justice movement after becoming passionate about sustainable practices in the fashion industry. “In fashion, increasingly people are aware of the negative impacts of the industry and want to change their consumption habits, which can be a bit of a gateway drug to recognising the underlying systems powered by greed and inequality, and without realising it, our work becomes tied to political change.”

MacGilp felt it was important to attend The Big One in order to “stand together” with fellow activists, especially in the face of attempts by the government and mainstream media to turn climate change into a polarising issue. “Climate change is so often an issue that is battling for attention with the everyday struggles of people in the UK, particularly with the cost of living crisis,” she says. “But by understanding that these intersecting issues share a root problem  – an unfair, unjust and unsustainable financial and political system – we can recognise there are shared solutions that can unite us.”

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