Earlier this month, socio-political climate activists Extinction Rebellion (XR) took over Manchester’s Deansgate in a campaign they are calling the ‘Northern Rebellion’.
The ‘rebellion’, which lasted four days, closed down the busy city centre street in a bid to reduce the illegal levels of pollution the street produces and raise awareness of the current climate emergency.
Protesters decorated the road with temporary gardens, an ‘Angel of the North’ sculpted from entirely waste plastic, and were accompanied by the XR trope – a boat adorned with slogans and banners.
The boat, which had the message “Planet before profit” painted on one side and “Act now” painted on the other, also had a banner with the words “Tell the Truth, we are in a Climate Emergency” draped from it, alongside the group’s recognisable symbol.
Whilst the main site of the protest was Deansgate, other activists brought the Northern Rebellion to Barclays’ regional head office in Piccadilly.
Amongst them was the Student Union’s Activities Officer Lizzy Haughton, who was one of several protesters to glue themselves to the bank in an attempt to raise awareness of the company’s investments in fossil fuels.
Others marched through the streets of Manchester staging peaceful ‘die-ins’ at key places that, like Barclays, that have connections to unsustainable industries.
One ‘die-in’ outside Primark lasted six minutes, causing disruptions to trams and blocking the pathway significantly. Some participants marched with signs to explain their protest to passers-by.
One activist told the crowds that “Fast fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world,” with mass amounts of water used to produce the items. She encouraged onlookers to think more carefully how we use our resources, saying that fast fashion was “exploitative, not only in resources but how it’s made and how are the people treated where it is made.”
Other XR protestors congregated outside of Manchester’s Civil Justice Centre to show support for three anti-fracking protesters that had previously been arrested for their activism.
An Extinction Rebellion Manchester spokesperson said: “The protesters appearing in court today were amongst the first to stand against an injunction designed to stop people protesting against Cuadrilla, a company which said it could frack without causing earthquakes or environmental damage. In reality, Cuadrilla has in fact caused more than 100 quakes including a 2.9 intensity six. This is just one of many awful impacts Cuadrilla have admitted – it has also cold vented 6.8 tonnes of methane.”
Participants in the protest were of all ages, with XR’s youth branch ‘XR Youth Manchester’ heavily present. The youth group, created for anyone born past 1990, see themselves as “The voice of the young rebellion.”
XR Youth Manchester held their own ‘die-in’ protest in the Arndale Centre, one of Manchester’s largest shopping centres, again hoping to highlight the unsustainability of fast fashion. 50 of the group’s members took part in the ‘die-in’, lying down in the middle of Arndale for 11 minutes.
Jade, 19, who was one of the many participants from XR Youth, said: “We as the XR Youth feel very passionately that our futures are being compromised by the way that the capitalist system we are living in today puts profit over people and the planet. This is already leading to horrific situations in the global south right now – and if nothing changes, it will compromise the future of our planet too.”
XR has three key demands which each protest aims to draw attention to:
“Tell The Truth. The government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
Act Now. The government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2025.
Beyond Politics. The government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.”
#NorthernRebellion is over.
Everyone has returned home, cars are flowing again.
Our Angel is now @PHMMcr
Our garden has gone to @TreesNotCars
Thank you to all who did anything to make this happen.
Hopefully we can sum it up more eloquently when we’ve had time to absorb it all! pic.twitter.com/EAd0Inyzfn
— Extinction Rebellion Manchester (@XR_MCR) September 2, 2019
Extinction Rebellion are set to host further protests across the UK in coming months, with an ‘International Rebellion’ due to take place on 7 October in London.