Extinction Rebellion hosts silent protest against Government’s coronavirus response
PUBLISHED: 06:55 06 June 2020 | UPDATED: 10:33 09 June 2020
Climate change activists hosted a silent protest on Weston seafront in response to the Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
On May 30, members of Extinction Rebellion Weston (XRWSM) stood together on the promenade demanding the government creates a Citizens Assembly to decide the future together during the Covid-19 recovery.
The group wants a recovery that ‘must prioritise people and planet over profit’.
North Somerset Council was able to act in a matter of days in response to the crisis and XRWSM believes the authority made positive steps by producing a climate emergency action plan, and wants to encourage it to act courageously in its planning, to ensure society returns to a better normal.
Paula Birtwistle from XRWSM told the Mercury: “People in Weston have enjoyed having less traffic and air pollution and to have been able to cycle more safely around the town.
“There are aspects of the Covid-19 crisis that have shown us how things can be changed positively when communities work together.
“Let us keep these and build on them when we plan our future.”
Group member David Agassi added: ”Coronavirus is the acute crisis we face but the climate emergency is the chronic condition facing us and our planet.
“We are at a turning point in human history. The Government is driving a return to ‘normal’ as quickly as possible. But ‘normal’ is killing us.
“Our Government has a choice; prioritise profit or prioritise health. Bailout destructive industries or bailout people and the planet. Mass extinction or mass participation.
“It’s time to trust the people. As part of coronavirus recovery, we demand a binding Citizens Assembly on how to rebuild our economy, our democracy and our future.”
Protests also took place in other areas of the country, including Parliament Square in London, and had been carefully designed so that people were physically distanced at three metres apart, with everyone being asked to wear masks in order to take part and stand silently for one hour.
In adherence to Government health and safety guidelines, people arrived alone or in pairs and were asked to only attend their local protests by walking or cycling and avoid public transport unless absolutely necessary.
People brought their own signs saying ‘people OR profit’, ‘life OR death and ‘new roads OR new bike lanes’.
Shelley Bowers of XRWSM said: “It’s becoming more and more evident each day that the Government isn’t capable of getting us out of the coronavirus mess, or preparing us for future crises.
“They are more concerned with getting us back to ‘normal’ as rapidly as possible. And the coronavirus has shown us what’s possible when the political will is there. Everything can change.
“Although there might not be a clear way out of either of these two huge disasters, we know one thing for sure: There can be no going back to the way things were.”
Another group member, who did not wish to be named, added: “As well as exercising our bodies, we also exercise our right, under the human rights act, to protest.
“We protest safely for the future health and safety of our planet and generations of all life. Acting on the climate and ecological emergency is essential and in this case, work we cannot do from home but can carry out safely outdoors, as per Government guidance.
“As public trust in the UK Government lies in turmoil following their handling of the pandemic – and their unwillingness to address the climate and ecological emergency – the protest highlighted the lack of faith people have in their ability to protect people from future crises.”
Extinction Rebellion wants the Government to declare a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
It believes the Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
The group believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.
As the Government begins to ease lockdown and reopen the economy, Extinction Rebellion will stand in defiance of going back to business as usual, saying there can be no going back to the way things were.
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