I’ve been involved with Greenpeace for over 8 years. I left my job at an Investment Bank and now work as a freelance technology project manager. My parents weren’t very pleased when I told them I was leaving my banking career to work for Greenpeace. Like many first generation immigrants they believe in staying out of trouble. They would give me an uneasy smile when I showed them photos of me on direct actions before quickly changing the topic.
So imagine my surprise when they joined me in breaking the law on Good Friday!
Joining Extinction Rebellion
On 15 April, Extinction Rebellion shut down Oxford Street, Marble Arch, Parliament Square and Waterloo Bridget to traffic. I followed the first two days of the Rebellion closely through the news and social media. I was impressed with what had been achieved but was still unsure of some of their tactics. Then came my tipping point. On Tuesday evening I watched Channel 4 news and saw how Farhana Yamin, a climate change lawyer had taken direct action by gluing herself to the road outside Shell. Her husband and nine year old son spoke about it being her first direct action and how proud they were. I was proud of her. It reminded me of one of Martin Luther King’s quote – a time comes when silence is betrayal. I had to go check out the sites for myself.
After work on Wednesday I made my way down to Oxford Circus. Exiting the station I encountered the bizarre (but brilliant!) pink boat blazing out music and people enjoying the traffic free street. For some reason I hadn’t expected the boat to be right in the middle of Oxford Circus. The atmosphere was jovial. I ran into some colleagues and had some great chats with Extinction Rebellion volunteers. I sent some photos to my parents that evening.
The next evening I headed to Waterloo Bridge with my partner – the sun was setting – the city was looking beautiful and for the first time in ages I was able to breathe clean air. The atmosphere was wonderful. I know it has been different experiences for people when it comes to how diverse it was, but when I was there I saw lots of people from different backgrounds – enjoying activities on the bridge, singing, dancing and sharing vegan food. It actually made me cry.
There was a call out for people to head to Parliament Square as the activists needed more support. As we arrived, we were greeted by a wonderful carnival of steel drums, dancing, chanting and critical mass cyclists circling the square. Police had surrounded one of the blockades. We sat with some activists who had glued themselves to the road. We talked to them for a while about why they had taken action and asked if they needed anything. They were being well looked after by Extinction Rebellion, being bought food, drinks and blankets. We didn’t want to leave. We wanted to stay to show our solidarity. We didn’t want this wonderful space to be shut down by the police.
The next morning we decided we’d make the most of the sunshine and invited friends to picnic on Waterloo Bridge. I invited my parents to come along too but they said that they had made other plans.
So my partner and I headed to Oxford Cirrus. As we got there police had circled the boat and then circled a group of people who had sat down around the boat. We sat down just outside the second ring of police. We listened to some of the speeches. Just as we were getting comfortable my dad called saying that had changed their minds and they’d meet me at Waterloo. I was surprised and excited they were coming. We made our way across to Waterloo Bridge and met Mum and Dad who said they had passed a load of police vans. They were a bit anxious to be be in an unfamiliar space but were of course much better prepared for a picnic than I was, having bought tonnes of food and blankets to sit on!
We shared some food and soaked in the atmosphere. A few of my friends joined us. We enjoyed watching kids run around the bridge and my parent’s anxiety quickly evaporated. My dad had a good wander of the site by himself and I went on a walk with mum. She spent 5 minutes peacefully meditating on the bridge. She told me she had watched David Attenborough’s documentary the night before and that had encouraged her to come along.
My parents had a wonderful day and I’m incredibly proud of them. I shared a photo on Twitter which has had loads of supportive comments.
Will they come to similar events in future? I hope so. If we’re going to get governments and corporations around the world to start treating climate change like the emergency it is, we’ll need everyone. It’s definitely going to take more than a village to win this fight!