Words by Ella Makin
At least four Brightonians have been arrested after a march for government intervention in the climate refugee crisis was stopped and had its barge seized, amidst reported breaches of COVID-19 regulations.
Claudia Fisher, 58, of Extinction Rebellion (XR) Brighton was one of the people arrested on Kennington Park Road, after glueing herself to the model model boat, as police attempted to seize it.
Before her arrest, Ms Fisher said that the march aimed to “highlight the journey that many climate refugees are taking right now and many millions more will be forced to undertake.
“The United Nations estimated there are already 25 million climate refugees and this number is expected to double over the next five years.”
Commander Kyle Gordon, Gold Commander during the protest’s policing operation, stated: “Throughout this period we have become increasingly concerned the organisers of these events have not always taken all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, thereby posing a risk, not only to those involved, but the wider public and communities of London.”
This was in relation to numerous demonstrations occurring over the weekend of 29 August, such as “Resit the Government”, “Move One Million”, “The Ivory Coast Protest” and “Citizens’ Assembly Extinction Rebellion”.
When approached by The Badger for a comment on this statement, Extinction Rebellion Brighton’s Press stated: “We had a proper risk assessment in place, stewards assigned to monitor compliance, hand sanitiser and masks required, and announcements before the event and at the start asking for anyone with symptoms to go home and isolate.
“We also minimised risk by advising people to stay in groups of six or less and socially distance, and the [Lightship] Greta protest march was away from big crowds. Whilst Coronavirus is a very real and present threat to public health, so is the Climate and Ecological Emergency.”
On the intentions behind the march, Sussex student and climate activist Charlie Stewardson, said: “There were a few aims. Firstly outreach – going through communities that may not necessarily get our message and trying to show Extinction Rebellion was a fun community.
“Also, symbolically it’s quite a nice image of people pushing a boat all the way from Brighton to London with no motor. There was a lot of support from London. Lots of people cheering us on and sharing our message. It’s quite a different rebellion from a lot of Extinction Rebellion stuff, as in it’s not so in your face and as short.”
Extinction Rebellion protestors ‘set sail’ on this ‘epic voyage of rebellion’ over the August bank holiday weekend, pushing a 20-foot red and white ‘lightship’ emblazoned with the slogan ‘Sound the alarm – Climate Emergency’, accompanied by a samba band.
Protestors were calling for the government to support The Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill which has been postponed for debate until 12 March, 2021.
The makeshift model was dubbed ‘The Lightship Greta’ in tribute to the 17-year-old Swedish environmental activist, Greta Thunberg.
The voyage was a continuation of ‘Countdown to the Rebellion’ in which ‘rebels’ from towns and cities across the country – including Bristol, Lewes and Leeds – aimed to raise awareness of the cause before wider demonstrations began in London, Manchester and Cardiff.
It followed 28 August’s mass bike ride to London, called ‘Swarm to the Rebellion’, as well as the large ‘We All Want to Live’ march that commenced in Central Brighton on Saturday, 29 August.
For more information on Extinction Rebellion, follow @xr_unis_bns on Instagram – a society collaboration between student climate activists from the University of Sussex and University of Brighton, and an affinity group of @extinctionrebellionbrighton.