Early on Monday evening I attended my first Extinction Rebellion meet up in Manchester. Every Monday from 6pm a group of members meet up at Sandbar on Grosvenor Street. [Next week’s meeting, Monday 29th, is at the Breadshed, nearby. See here for details], I was nervous about showing up alone but as soon as I sat down the atmosphere was immediately welcoming with everyone chatting with each other, all sharing the same fear and passion while actually doing something about climate change.
When I imagine a group of “Climate Activists” what springs to mind is a group of young hippies who perhaps naïvely think they can change the world. There is nothing wrong with this stereotype, but what was really comforting to me was that the room was in fact filled with people of all ages and occupations, students, teachers, mothers, firefighters, film-makers.
The main topic of conversation that was bubbling throughout the room was the events in London over the past week. People who attended events were telling their stories and everyone was captivated with the same excitement that these people felt. Members described seeing others being arrested and some were even arrested themselves. Despite this, all those who attended the London protests agreed that it had been a very peaceful experience with one woman stating that the police are ‘on our side.’
However, another lady told the room a very different story. She explained how early on Saturday evening she was at Parliament Square with around six other protesters because everyone else had wondered off to get food and other supplies, when out of nowhere and with no prior warning around 200 police came marching towards them. She explained the pure fear she felt but how with shaking hands she linked arms with the people next to her and waited for the police to reach them.
These stories gave me confidence that I am not alone when facing the huge issue of climate change, in light of recent events it is clear that there are thousands of other people who think and feel just like me. However, when Marc Hudson [editor of Manchester Climate Monthly] noted that out of the 50 people in the room every single person was white, I quickly realised that Extinction Rebellion is not quite as diverse as I first thought. According to Government statistics black people are more than three times as likely to be arrested in comparison to white people 1 and so with all of this attention on getting arrested perhaps to view the police as being ‘on our side’ was a naïve statement, or at the very least a statement which could alienate black and working-class people.
Pippa Neill, new staff writer for Manchester Climate Monthly