On Thursday morning 3rd October, a few days before the start of Extinction Rebellion’s mass civil disobedience International October Rebellion, an out of commission fire engine pulled up outside Her Majesty’s Treasury. Activists from XR and Christian Climate Action aimed the fire hose at the front of the building and began to pump 1800 litres of red food-dyed water towards it. The first spray struck home, turning parts of the stonework red, but then the hose broke away from the nozzle and the rest of the liquid sprayed out on to the road, the pavement and the steps of the building, creating a dramatic blood-red pool.
It took police several minutes to arrive, but eventually around 30 officers set up a cordon. In the meantime, four of the activists, dressed in black, stood on top of the fire engine and gave interviews to the press, a banner reading ‘STOP FUNDING CLIMATE DEATH’ below them.
Their protest was to highlight that while insisting it is a world leader on combatting climate and ecological breakdown, the UK government is still pouring huge amounts of tax-payers money into fossil fuel and carbon-intensive exploration and infrastructure abroad. A report into UK Export Finance was released in June by the Environmental Audit Committee. It said that the UKEF was the ‘elephant in the room’ undermining the UK’s supposed climate and development targets.
96% of funding over a five-year period, amounting to billions of pounds, locked middle and low income countries into years of reliance on fossil-fuel projects which an independent group of world leaders (The Elders) describe as exploitative – “exporting emissions to poorer foreign countries and leaving them to pay the price both socially and economically”.
One of the activists was Phil Kingston, who we’ve filmed before. He’s an 83 year old grandfather, a Christian, and a retired lecturer in Social Work.
There were eight arrests and the fire engine was confiscated by police. All were released on bail the next day.