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Oil = War: On the Streets With XR Peace

This week, Stop the War marched with Extinction Rebellion. We will continue to rebel for peace, and for the planet.

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On Monday the 7th October the Rebellion began.

Leaving Westminster station at 9:30 am we passed 3 police vans, turning onto the embankment droves of neon yellow cop vests flocked to the pavement on the other side of the road. There was a distinct sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’ (as in, wearing the XR badge on my chest I felt very aware that I was being eyed by the police, sudden fear of being arrested.)

What should have been the peace bloc, was an empty road, on it a man chained to the inside of his car – the other peace protesters, who had been there since 6:30 am had been arrested – all 28 of them. The police began to saw through the chains.

After a hesitant start at the MOD, we moved to the bridge – climbed over the barrier into the road to join the sitting demonstrators. Eventually, our placards were being handed out: Stop War – Stop Climate Chaos, a relevant message to be present on the bridge as not much later, Peter Kennard arrived. He performed a live art piece: ‘Oil = War’ – a loaded image to say the least, the northern hemisphere crowned by the sharp heads of war-missiles, and below, Kennard let spill black oil paint through small holes on the cardboard globe: Where there is oil there is war, suffering, homicide and ecocide.

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Down by the ministry of Defence there was a very enthusiastic response from viewers who listened to Lindsey German’s speech. Her words were a powerful declaration of our country’s failure to admit to its wrongs:

“Many future wars are going to come from the impact of climate change:  People will no longer be able to farm their land, they will no longer be able to have access to water (...) They will try to move, and they will try to go to other countries, countries like our own: We've (already) seen it with the Syrians, with the Iraqis, with the Afghans - they are penalised and treated in the most appalling fashion. There’s always money to spend on wars, to spend on bombing some of the poorest countries in the world - there is never the money to care for the refugees or to welcome the refugees” – it was then that the crowd erupted.

On Thursday 10th October, Chris Nineham was witness to the XR Peace Protesters as they chained themselves to each other on the ground outside the Tesco in Trafalgar Square, an image of bravery in utter vulnerability – the XR peace protesters we stand by have shown that their hearts are not lacking in dedication. Crowds of both protesters and civilians flocked to the scene with cheers and cries of anxiety, hope, and solidarity.

We turned to the ‘tower’ where an XR protester was removed from a tall and precarious looking wooden structure by the police. Balancing on one leg, with his hands in the air - non-violent - the police suspended in the booth of a crane, cut the wire, then swung him over into the booth. The crowd called to him, almost immediately, “We love you. Thank you.”

On the 12th of October we marched with Extinction Rebellion – the placards survived the rain and the long walk from St. James’s park to Marble Arch in the rain, our very own Jim Brann – a member of Stop the War for almost 20 years, rescued the placards by hiding them under his raincoat. The change of location led us to arrive at Marble Arch, soaked and a little weary, but the enthusiasm of the crowd as we handed out the placards was heart-warming.

“Thank you” – again the words most spoken at the XR protest, were spoken to us as we handed out the placards. We were thankful the placards were taken – they were thankful for having them.

At 2:30 we set off, marching among 30,000 people through Oxford Street, past a Primark - which later I discovered was full of young XR protesters who were staging a ‘die-in’ on the floors of the shopping mall. The thousands of protesters marched on to Russell Square, despite the rain, despite the police – who stopped a group of us further down from Russell square. We raised our hands again, this time in silence: thirty people, a hundred people, “This is a peaceful protest. We are non-violent”, still they would not let us pass and we were forced to turn around.

This week, Stop the War marched with Extinction Rebellion. We will continue to rebel for peace, and for the planet.

 

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