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Extinction Rebellion Hackney recruits hundreds of new eco campaigners ahead of its two-week central London demo

PUBLISHED: 12:00 02 October 2019 | UPDATED: 12:13 02 October 2019

XR campaigners marched on Abney Park at the weekend, to mourn the loss of the Red Girdled Mining Bee there, following development nearby. Picture: Anna Sherwin

XR campaigners marched on Abney Park at the weekend, to mourn the loss of the Red Girdled Mining Bee there, following development nearby. Picture: Anna Sherwin

Anna Sherwin

Extinction Rebellion has drafted in hundreds of new recruits in Hackney ahead of its two-week "international rebellion" which starts on Monday.

XR campaigners marched on Abney Park at the weekend to mourn the loss of the Red Girdled Mining Bee there. Picture: Tiranth AmarasingheXR campaigners marched on Abney Park at the weekend to mourn the loss of the Red Girdled Mining Bee there. Picture: Tiranth Amarasinghe

Eco campaigners from the non-violent direct action group held a funeral-style procession on Saturday in Stoke Newington to plug the national event and demand immediate action in the climate emergency.

The stunt, which was dubbed "Requiem for a Bee", saw the group march from Clissold Park down Church Street to Abney Park to mourn the loss of biodiversity in Hackney generally, and in particular the extinction of the Red-Girdled Mining Bee from the Stoke Newington cemetery.

According to Russell Miller of the Tree Musketeers, who gave a speech, the bee has not been seen there for some time and might now be extinct because of over-development nearby.

Russell highlighted the importance of Hackney's 30 conservation areas, like Abney Park, for the thousands of species living there. One aim of the march was to demand Hackney Council reinstate its biodiversity officer - but the council announced beforehand this will happen by next year. The role leads the management of ecologically important sites, like Abney Park, and can articulate concerns and responsibilities regarding wildlife to planning officers with no training.

XR campaigners marched on Abney Park at the weekend, to mourn the loss of the Red Girdled Mining Bee there, following development nearby. Picture: Anna SherwinXR campaigners marched on Abney Park at the weekend, to mourn the loss of the Red Girdled Mining Bee there, following development nearby. Picture: Anna Sherwin

XR Hackney also wants the council to include its representatives in fortnightly meetings, commit to net zero emissions by 2025, and divest 100pc of its pension funds from fossil fuels. It has currently committed to being net zero carbon by 2040.

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"The large turnout and enthusiasm of passers-by gave a strong message that the council needs to do more to honour its declaration of a climate emergency," Tiranth Amarasinghe told the Gazette.

"A lot of the community says they will come to the rebellion either to actively take part or to support it after work," he added.

XR campaigners marched on Abney Park at the weekend, to mourn the loss of the Red Girdled Mining Bee there, following development nearby. Picture: Anna SherwinXR campaigners marched on Abney Park at the weekend, to mourn the loss of the Red Girdled Mining Bee there, following development nearby. Picture: Anna Sherwin

While he "can't give too much away", the XR Hackney team is leading the "Burning Earth" protest in Trafalgar Square where artwork and creative installations will depict wildfires and the burning Amazon forest. It is one of the three sites in London where the protest will take place, in response to the government's failure to act on the UN's warning to act immediately over the climate emergency.

"There's not too much information on it for obvious reasons, but the rebellion will go for two weeks, and we expect it to be a bit tougher than in April, in demanding that we take strong action," said Tiranth. "I'm getting some days off work during the first week, and a lot of people are taking two weeks off."

The Hackney branch of the international movement - which draws on non-violent civil disobedience as a means to "halt mass extinction and to minimise the risk of societal collapse due to climate change" - now has 2,400 members, and 80 people joined just this week. New members get an induction at weekly Monday meetings at the Round Chapel in Lower Clapton.

"It's an opportunity to ask any questions they may have about the climate crisis," said Tiranth. "A lot of people know they have to do something but sometimes it's difficult. Do you start recycling more or do you stop using plastic bottles? Behavioural changes are too little too late, and people realise they need to do more, so they ask: 'How can I be part of it?'"

XR campaigners marched on Abney Park at the weekend, to mourn the loss of the Red Girdled Mining Bee there, following development nearby. Picture: Anna SherwinXR campaigners marched on Abney Park at the weekend, to mourn the loss of the Red Girdled Mining Bee there, following development nearby. Picture: Anna Sherwin

Non violent direct action training sessions have been laid on twice weely for the last month.

"Right now we can't meet demand," said Tiranth. "Sometimes 100 people sign up for a session so at some points it's difficult to manage. It's important people understand what non-violent direct action is. There's this misconception you have to be arrested. There are a lot of people who are willing to get arrested, and it's a big part of what we are trying to do, but people must understand the police are doing their job. In April there were more than 1,000 arrests but not a single person got hurt which is unheard of."

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