A Day In The Life Of A Rebel

My first hand experience as an Extinction Rebellion protestor


This week a bunch of ‘uncooperative crusties’ (to quote Boris Johnson) swarmed the streets of cities in 72 countries and counting, in an attempt to bring awareness to world leaders and governments about the climate crisis. If you’re not already familiar with Extinction Rebellion, they are a group of climate change activists with an incredible system run by the people. 

(Berlin camp 10.09.19)

I first became affiliated with this group in April, when I caught wind of masses of protestors camping on the small stretch of green at Marble Arch. I've been seriously passionate about doing my bit for the environment for longer than I can remember - going vegetarian at age fourteen and then vegan at sixteen as well as pushing myself to get as close to being zero waste as I can. So, it's safe to say this movement more than piqued my interest.

What was to come over the next twenty-four hours was pretty unexpected. Let me give you the rundown of my experience...

I went with a friend to check out the camp and we were in AWE when we arrived. It was such a well put together organization, there were food tents where people were constantly chopping, cooking and feeding the hungry stomachs of rebels and passers-by alike. We grabbed a plate at a food tent and got in line, learning that all the food was free (and vegan!), a few homeless people joined the line, buzzing at the sight of a cooked meal.

(Marble Arch camp 04.24.19)

There were workshop tents offering arts and crafts AND daycare services to the families who were staying there and the atmosphere was so filled with love. People were drawing on the pavements with chalk and a guitarist played under the Arch. Beside this was a washing-up station where there seemed to be a rotational system of helping hands. After we ate we joined in with three other people and washed some plates and cutlery, while singing songs by The Red Hot Chill Peppers. As you do. 

After a while a couple of people came and took over our roles and we moved on. We learned quickly that there was no-one really in change. There was no hierarchical or authoritative structure to this system. It was all just individuals rotating jobs fairly. Amazing!

We knew we had to be a part of this and quickly went to buy a cheap pop up tent which thankfully came without packaging (cheers Argos!).
As the evening drew in, we set up our tent and watched a slide show of photos from the week so far which was projected onto one of the walls of the Arch. Chairs were arranged in front of it like an open-air cinema.

(Tent set up at Marble Arch 04.24.19)

I convinced my housemate to bring us pillows, warm clothes, and a duvet, then we turned in for the night. It was freezing, uncomfortable and interrupted several times by a drunk woman screaming outside our tent.

In the morning, at six AM sharp, we went to ‘swarm’ aka, legally obstruct traffic. That’s right, there seems to be a loophole in the law regarding pedestrian crossings.
In the UK, it’s legal to obstruct traffic and stand in the middle of the road for up to eight minutes after the green man has turned back to red.

(London swarms 04.25.19)

Both myself and my friend, along with other rebels - one of whom being a lady in her 70s who told us she was doing this for her grandchildren - made the mutual agreement to stay on after the eight minutes was up.
This caused a commotion with the police who had, up until this point, accompanied us so we could protest safely. One officer even said he fully backed us in what we were doing, while another thanked us for our perseverance.

Unfortunately, though, they were there to do a job and as we weren’t budging from the road (sat cross-legged whilst road-raged drivers furiously honked their horns), we had to be removed, arrested and detained.
I was umm-ing and ahh-ing about whether or not I wanted to go through with it as I knew it would mean having a criminal record. Then I thought back to all the people who have made a huge difference in the world and the sacrifices they had to make in order to bring about change (obviously I’m no Martin Luther-King Jnr. but the principle is what drove me forth).

We were told prior to the arrests that in order to make it more difficult for the police to drag us away, we should go as floppy as possible. We prepared ourselves mentally and when the time came, did what we had to do. My friend was the first to be arrested and taken away, all the rebels on the sidelines clapped and cheered as she was put into a riot van.

When it came to me I was so nervous and just closed my eyes until it was over. Two officers picked me up by the arms and I went as floppy as possible. Must have been dead weight because at some point, a third officer had to join in. That's pretty funny considering I’m 5”5 and weigh about 50kg. Lol. Thanks gravity.


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(My arrest, London 04.25.19)

I got separated from my friend and we were taken to different police stations. I was detained in a jail cell for six hours and all I can say is the movies have it spot on! From the metal toilet in the corner to the bars on the window… the door even had a sliding shutter across an eye-level window so you could be checked in on.

The officers said these were some of the most peaceful arrests they’d encountered and for that reason, they were all pretty chilled with me and I was allowed my book in the cell. They even gave me vegan chilli (deffo from the microwave but beggars can’t be choosers) which came with a paper spork, sustainable. Kind of. I did preach about their use of polystyrene cups though. 

(Sleeping protesters Berlin 10.09.19)

Nearly six months have passed since the initial climate strike in April and the time has come to rise again. I am now living in Berlin, where the Extinction Rebellion reigns heavy once more and I can’t seem to get away.

I took to the streets on my housemate’s bike with my camera and self-made protest T-Shirt (suuuuuuch a hippy). I’ve taken a step back this time though, no German jail cell for me Mum, I promise!

(Berlin Red Rebels 10.09.19)

Up next, Turkey’s First Lady Presents Zero Waste Movement