Please note: the woman in this film is ‘Rosie’ not ‘Sophie’ – apologies.
In a response in part to the pandemic, and in part to the Home Secretary’s threat to clamp down on “disruptive” non-violent mass protests, strategists at Extinction Rebellion have been working on a plan to co-ordinate the ultimate in socially-distanced protests – single person actions all happening at the same time up and down the country.
Yesterday on Mayday was the first large-scale try-out of the technique, which they call “Rebellion Of One”. Taking to the tarmac at 11am with nothing more than handwritten signs (and small discreet support groups to help witness and de-escalate any threatening situations), teachers, parents, grandparents, doctors, students, nurses, and lawyers, stopped traffic in cities and towns across the country.
Some moved on when threatened with arrest, some carried on, and some even glued their hands to the road, delaying their removal and extending the disruptive effect. The point of the exercise was to show that ordinary people are willing to make serious sacrifices to push for action to mitigate the impending climate crisis. The action is designed to cause spectacle and cognitive dissonance amongst a public, who still seem largely unaware of the science which is warning us that the path our governments are taking will lead to the almost certain collapse of civilisation and possible human extinction.
Across the UK, reports showed that the tactic drew crowds, got people discussing the issues, and attracted local press coverage.
In our film, we caught up with Rosie in Piccadilly Circus in London, whose lone action lasted nearly 20 minutes, stopping traffic all the way up Regent Street. She agreed to move after being threatened with arrest. We also caught up with Jimmy who had chosen to glue his hands to the road on Westminster Bridge, requiring a police operation which took nearly an hour before the road could be opened.
The Home Secretary Priti Patel condemned the tactic as dangerous. Extinction Rebellion believe the government’s lack of meaningful action on climate and ecology is rather more dangerous and that her proposed Police and Crime Bill shows an authoritarian desire to deal with the symptom rather than cause of societal unrest.
Initial Rebellion of One protests have also taken place in Germany and Poland, with several more countries set to join in.