‘It’s not just a party’: Extinction Rebellion plans London Fields takeover to avert climate catastrophe

Lights for cyclists have been put up in London Fields. Picture: Madeleine Saghir

Lights for cyclists have been put up in London Fields. Picture: Madeleine Saghir - Credit: Archant

Extinction Rebellion activists planning to take over London Fields next weekend don’t want the “big names” performing there to distract people from their vital message.

London Fields. Picture: Madeleine Saghir

London Fields. Picture: Madeleine Saghir - Credit: Archant

Three days of protest, talks, workshops and non-violent direct action are planned for east London in what is set to be the biggest "uprising" of the eco movement - set up with the bold aim of "avert[ing] human extinction and ecological collapse" - since its two-week central London action at Easter.

Although the government has since declared a "climate emergency", XR campaigners say action must be taken immediately, and are now calling on east London councils to set the benchmark nationally to make concrete changes to avert a climate catastrophe.

The action will kick off on Friday at 3.30pm with family-friendly "The Air We Grieve" march from Paradise Gardens at Bethnal Green Tube station up Mare Street to reach Hackney Town Hall.

Here youngsters will hold a children's assembly, letting local politicians know what they think must be done by 2025 to tackle air pollution.

The XR Garden in Graham Road. Picture: XR Hackney

The XR Garden in Graham Road. Picture: XR Hackney - Credit: XR

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On Saturday a protest "swarm" is planned for Dalston Junction at 9am, where activists plan to intermittently stop traffic for seven minutes at a time. A skeleton procession will leave Hackney Downs at 2pm the same day, headed to London Fields - the main focus of the weekend - where two days of workshops, music and arts performances are scheduled.

Talks and workshops will also be held in XR's guerrilla garden in Graham Road which was converted from a concrete yard in six weeks, telling people how they can "act now".

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Then on Sunday a "people's assembly" will be held outside Hackney Town Hall from noon, hosting discussions on the climate and the ecological crisis.

Groups from Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Havering, Newham and Waltham Forest are uniting to organise the event, which is also calling for a citizen's assembly to be set up to take decisions on policy and taking a stand against the construction of the Silvertown Tunnel between Newham and Greenwich.

Sam Smithson, one of the main organisers of the XR Uprising. Picture: XR Hackney

Sam Smithson, one of the main organisers of the XR Uprising. Picture: XR Hackney - Credit: XR

Sam Smithson, from Hackney, who has given up her job to work for XR full-time, told the Gazette: "We haven't asked for permission to use the park, but it's a public space and we are a community, and this is an emergency.

"So we are asking for the council and the park rangers and the police and the people of Hackney's blessing to come together and unite and talk about these issues.

"We will have a stage called Telling the Truth with lots of speakers, poets and notable people, from experts to musicians to fashion designers, and they will be saying their truth on why this is such an important issue and how they are tackling it within their industries.

"We do have some famous names performing, but I can't disclose those because it's not a party and we don't want people to see it as a festival. It's a protest. There's a tent for education so people can learn.

"It's important that everyone understands what we are trying to do and to engage with it, and that it's peaceful and mindful and respectful of the neighbours. We know it's controversial but it's less controversial than being in the middle of the street and blocking that for two weeks. It's a safe space."

She added: "We have had so many people join since the rebellion and they all just want to help us, and normally when I say what an event will look like, you just times it by 10. It's great there is so much energy, and I just want the council and police to understand that we aren't trying go cause trouble, and we would love everyone's blessing and for them to come along and get involved.

"Everyone has some skill, some passion or some energy to offer, no matter how busy we are."

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