Posts Tagged ‘red brigade’

Police surround Berta Cáceres

Monday, April 19th, 2021

The pink yacht that Extinction Rebellion had brought to Oxford Circus was named after Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres. On March 7th 2016 year I had photographed a vigil in her memory outside the Honduran Embassy in London. The leader of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH) who had been awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her work against the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project in Río Blanco, funded by the World Bank and the Dutch government, she was murdered in her home on March 3. She had previously received death threats from the Honduran National Police.

The Met didn’t actually arrest the pink yacht, which had been at the centre of the circus since Monday, but on Friday 19th April 2019 surrounded it and arrested any of those who had been protecting it in the centre of the road junction who refused to move away, including a number who had been locked on to the boat.

A larger police cordon surrounded the whole of the road junction, and people inside it were instructed to leave or face arrest. XR’s ‘Red Rebel Brigade’ made their way around the outside of this cordon, while others sang and danced inside.

The numbers inside slowly fell as police allowed people to leave but stopped anyone – including a man who told them he was the owner of the yacht – from entering. He made an effort to persuade the crowd to break the cordon, but was held back by friends and the crowd followed the XR principle of non-violence against the police and sat still, watching as the police made arrests or slow drifting away to Marble Arch or other areas still occupied by protesters.

Slowly and deliberately the police cleared the protesters, carrying away many to the waiting police vans. I stayed for several hours taking pictures before deciding it was time to leave.

Earlier that day I had been at the Oxford Circus ‘Sea of Protest’ for the start of the day’s activities to show ‘Love For The Earth’ on the 5th day of the occupation, and had photographed Dame Emma Thompson arriving and speaking at the event.

She received a warm welcome from Extinction Rebellion supporters but some snide comments from the press about having come from the USA by plane to speak at the event. She could hardly have swum and although I’d rather we had a system that didn’t worship celebrities, given the world as it is, I welcome them using their fame to support the fight against global extinction and other essential causes.

I left a few minutes after she had finished speaking and was still being besieged by photographers and journalists, answering their questions from the deck of Berta Cáceres. There had been another event I’d wanted to photograph scheduled for Trafalgar Square, but no sign of it when I arrived, so I returned to Oxford Circus. In the short time I’d been away, Emma Thompson had left and police had moved in to surround the yacht and begin the process of clearing the junction. By the evening the yacht had been towed away.

Police clear XR from Oxford Circus
Emma Thompson speaks at XR


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


XR, Drax and Knives

Saturday, April 17th, 2021

Extinction Rebellion‘s occupation of Central London was in its third day on Wednesday 17th April bringing traffic in the area to a standstill. And as there were no buses through the middle of London and those in the area around only moving at snail’s pace through near gridlock, the only way to move around was on foot or by tube. I chose to walk from Waterloo to Grocer’s Hall although the Waterloo and City line would have got me there in a fraction of the time so I could walk through XR’s ‘Garden Bridge’ still in place on Waterloo Bridge.

There were workshops and events taking place on the bridge, and only bicycles and people walking could cross. And although there was a strong police presence, while I was there they were simply standing around and watching, although I was told by the protesters there had been arrests earlier in the day, and there were people locked on below the lorry which was being used as a stage to make this more difficult to move.

Axe Drax protesters against Drax, a huge power station in Yorkshire, were as usual protesting outside the Drax AGM taking place in Grocer’s Hall in the City of London against both the incredible output of greenhouse gases it produces and the environmental damage both from the coal it burns, imported from open-cast mines which are destroying the environment and communities abroad and the wood, largely from destroying American forests by environmentally disastrous clear-felling. Drax burns more wood than the total UK production each year, and in 2018 this produced over 13 million tonnes of CO2. But nonsensical rules on environmental subsidies means that in 2018 Drax got £789 million in subsidies taken from surcharges in our electricity bills for this massive climate changing pollution. And Drax was planning to increase its pollution by building the largest gas powered generating station in the UK.

I took the tube from Bank to go back to Westminster where XR were still blocking Parliament Square and the roads around, with activities going on in and around the square and tents filling much of Broad Sanctuary.

The Axe Drax protesters had moved from the Draz AGM and were holding a protest at the Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy demanding an end to environmental subsidies for massive pollution which make Drax and its huge pollution viable. These subsidies should be used as they were intended to promote genuinely renewable low-pollution energy energy sources such as solar, geothermal, wind and wave power rather than, as at Drax, increasing global heating. A few from XR had come along to support them.

Finally in a completely unconnected protest I joined the campaigners from Operation Shutdown, a consortium of “mums, dad’s and other bereaved family members and loved ones” supported by other campaigners, who had come to Downing Street calling for the community to unite and demanded more urgent action by the government to halt the growing epidemic of knife crime.

It would be hard not to feel their pain, but to demand stiffer penalties for knife and gun crime is not the answer, as we know this has not worked and simply results in the criminalisation of more in the community. But they also call for other measures some of which would certainly help in cutting these killings, mainly of teenagers and young males.


They want really determined and coordinated putting into action of the recently announced public health approach to knife crime. This has to include an end to cuts to local services including youth work and their restoration to pre-austerity levels, more adequate safeguarding, a coordinated approach to trafficking and grooming and abuse of children and young people and a proper sharing of information and accountability.

After the speeches the protesters marched the short distance to Bridge Street where they presented two wreaths to the police and held a silence in memory of PC Keith Palmer, killed at Parliament by terrorists.

They then moved on to Westminster Bridge where they sat down for another lengthy rally with more speeches by relatives of those who have been killed.

Knife crime Operation Shutdown
Drax Protest at BEIS
XR around Parliament Square
Drax wood burning must end
XR Waterloo ‘Garden Bridge’ continues


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Extinction Rebellion and more

Thursday, April 15th, 2021

Extinction Rebellion (XR) began 11 days of protest which initially brought most of central London traffic to a halt on Monday 15th April 2019. They didn’t manage to keep up the protest until “the government takes necessary action on the global climate and ecological emergency” as we have yet to see that two years later, but they did considerably raise public and media awareness about the severity of the problem the world faces.

Unfortunately there seems to be little chance that effective action will be taken in time to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2015 as they demanded, though perhaps the half-hearted measures that will come out of the delayed climate summit later this year will do just a little to slow the rate our our planet’s decline, possibly enough to see my life out, though I worry about the future of my children and despair for that of my grandsons and daughters.

XR have now very much lost the initiative, mainly I think because of internal dissensions, perhaps inevitable because of some of the rather odd characters that they attracted. But some of their ideas, particularly over the police and arrests cut them off from many on the left who attacked them as a movement funded by shady capitalists and led by wacky idealists, more a Glastonbury festival than a political movement. Much of the criticism was ill-founded but not all.

The major effect they had on our government was for them to put pressure on the police to get rid of these pesky protesters – first by more arrests and prosecutions and now by the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill to give the police greater powers to control all protests.

Early on the Monday morning, XR protesters set up camp at a number of key locations in London in a well-planned exercise. I turned up rather later to take photographs, first at Waterloo Bridge, which XR had turned into a ‘garden bridge’, blocking all traffic and bringing flowers and trees. There had been arrests earlier, but police had been unable to stop the protesters and the bridge – despite many further arrests – remained closed for over a week.

Because of the XR actions traffic all around the centre of London was at a halt, with buses not moving. Fortunately the tube was unaffected and took me to Oxford Circus, which now had a large pink yacht at its centre, named after the Honduran environmental activist and indigenous leader, Berta Cáceres, assassinated for her activism in 2016. It was here that I met the dance troupe dressed in red that were such a visible presence in XR protests.

XR were not the only environmental game in town, and I took the Underground to St Paul’s Cathedral for a protest organised by the Green Anti-Capitalist Front, Earth Strike and London Students for Climate Justice. I arrived when there protest was due to start, but there were only a few of them present. I hung around for half an hour or so, and then gave up and left. Later I saw the accounts of their protest which did eventually attract a small crowd and was sorry I’d missed the action.

But there was rather more happening at Marble Arch, one of London’s main gyratory systems, where XR had blocked Oxford St, Park Lane, Edgware Road and a couple of other routes and had set up a stage, workshops and a tent village as well as the road blocks.

But XR had also planned an event for Parliament Square, where the roads around were blocked for a New Orleans funeral procession with jazz band to make its way around the square.

The funeral was perhaps also designed as a diversion for some more direct action, which I again missed at the Shell Centre on the South Bank. A small group of activists daubed slogans across the front of the building and two occupied the glass porch over the door. The activists had deliberately broken the glass in one of the doors, with the intention that this would result in a trial before a jury rather than by magistrates, enabling them to present the reasons for their action, and three had been arrested and taken away by the time I arrived, but the two were still up on the porch and others holding banners on the street in front.

My day had not quite finished as I made a small diversion on my way home to visit Brixton, where staff, families and children from children’s centres were protesting against plans by Lambeth Council to close five centres and make drastic cuts at seven others. The council had recently spent £68 million on refurbishing the Town Hall and building a new Civic Centre.

Save Lambeth Children’s Centres
Extinction Rebellion at Shell
Extinction Rebellion Funeral Procession
Extinction Rebellion Marble Arch
Anti-capitalist environmental action
Extinction Rebellion Sea at Oxford Circus
Extinction Rebellion Garden Bridge


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


XR Defy Police Ban

Saturday, April 18th, 2020

XR’s response to the illegal police ban on protests came the following day, when protesters crowded into Trafalgar Square to defend civil liberties and the right to protest.

Extinction Rebellion had called the protest after London Police ruled that even two people standing anywhere in London advocating action on climate change is an illegal assembly, and Monday’s Queen’s speech lacked any response to the Climate & Ecological Emergency.

Trafalgar Square soon became very full, and too crowded to be able to move around to take photographs. Fortunately I’d realised this was happening and had moved to a position on the steps only a few yards away from the microphone before the speeches began. But there were people sitting and standing in my line of sight, and I had to stretch and contort myself to get a clear view – and was almost certainly getting in the line of sight of others to do so.

And there were a whole string of speakers ready to speak out in defence of the right to protest – and put themselves at risk of arrest for doing so, along with the several thousand other protesters. Police did issue a number of warnings to people, but I saw no arrests actually in Trafalgar Square. Among the speakers was George Monbiot, and I’ve just found out that my spell checker decided he should be called George Moonlit when I wrote the account for October’s My London Diary (now corrected.)

I photographed most of the speakers, and XR’s red-robed mimes, who made their way through the crowd and came and stood rather conveniently behind me, but I was in pain from having to squat in an odd position to get my pictures and had to move back shortly before the protest ended and sit down for a rest.

George Monbiot had come to the protest determined to be arrested and carrying a notice announcing his deliberate breach of the Section 14 order, and invited people to join him and sit down in Whitehall after the protest. Quite a few went with him and police made a number of arrests,including him and a Green Party mayor who had come in his full regalia.

It was a long protest and I took many pictures – you can see more of them and read more about the protest at XR defies protest ban.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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