More than thirty people from Lancaster and Morecambe travelled to London to take part in Extinction Rebellion protests.
They were joined by North West Green MEP and Lancaster City and Lancashire County Councillor Gina Dowding, who said she has been “taken aback” by the policing of peaceful protest at both the actions in London, and at the Preston New Road fracking site recently.
Extinction Rebellion has launched a legal challenge against a police decision earlier this week to prevent them demonstrating anywhere in London.
Jon Sear, from Halton, one of those who headed down to the capital last week, said the experience has “given him hope”.
While Steve Lewis, from Lancaster, said he had met his “new hero”, in an unassuming man who refused to co-operate with police.
Jon said he had hesitated for weeks before deciding to go to London for the International Rebellion.
He said: “XR is a peaceful global climate movement taking to the streets in towns and cities all over the world with co-ordinated mass actions that are always non-violent.
“The purpose is simple: to get governments, including our own government, to tell the truth about the scale of the threat and to act decisively to limit it.
“I didn’t need convincing about the urgency of the issue.
“If we are going to stop climate breakdown leading to social and ecological collapse, we need to act now and act like it’s an emergency.
“As individuals we can plant thousands of trees, go vegan, insulate every part of our homes, install multiple renewable energy systems and never fly or even drive anywhere – but if government and business continue to pour money into fossil fuels and animal agriculture our efforts will be wasted.”
Jon said his reservations left him when he got to London, where he met people who had “spent years trying to bring about change in other ways and had come to this as a last resort”.
“Still, my urge was to focus on the solutions, and disrupting ordinary people’s day-to-day lives felt like something to avoid if at all possible,” he said. “With each protest bigger than the last there was a sense that finally something was working.
“It was amazing to be part of such a large, well organised and caring group of people.
“Extinction Rebellion’s strategy relies on thousands of people being willing to be arrested and I am so grateful to those people.
“Personally, I had no intention of doing anything I could be arrested for yet there was no shortage of useful things for me to do.
“People need food, toilets and information and the culture is that if you see something that needs doing you just get on and sort it out.
“So I quickly found myself jumping between directing new arrivals, putting up noticeboards, talking to local residents and managing the toilets.
“Meanwhile the people feeding 1,000 rebels in a park at less than 24 hours notice made it look easy.
“Even after three wet nights in a leaky tent I wish I could have stayed longer.”
Steve Lewis, returned from two days protesting in London earlier this week.
He said: “I saw remarkable things but the story I want to tell here is about my personal hero for this time of impossible changes.
“Me and this small, unassuming, man with a V neck jumper over shirt and tie are sort of holding the corner of a human roadblock, where Millbank meets a small sid street called Gt College St.
“Out of nowhere the man, let’s call him Andrew, cos that was his name, turns to me and says ‘What does one have to do to get arrested round here?’
“And, because I’ve seen it happening already today, I say ‘If the police ask you to do something just say no’.
“Now Andrew doesn’t know this but not long ago a police van came out of the sidestreet and nosed it’s way through us to unsettle our block and make a point.
“I can see another one approaching now and another behind that.
“‘Here’s your chance!’ I say, and slowly step back, as I’m not up for getting arrested.
“Andrew stays put.
“A copper approaches him.
“‘Are you willing to move sir’” says the copper.
“‘Not really’” says Andrew very mild-manneredly as if being asked if he wanted sugar in his tea.
“‘You’re obstructing an emergency vehicle with it’s blue light flashing’.
“‘That’s an arrestable offence’.
“The copper backs off. Goes to talk to the driver of the first van. Quite a long chat. Then he goes to talk to the driver of the second van. Longer chat. He comes back and talks to Andrew again. Repeats the warning.
“Andrew stays put.
“Those of us watching make ready for another arrest. The copper goes back to the vans. And amazingly both of them slowly reverse back down the side street turn round and disappear! To massive cheering.
“So my new hero is born. The authorities were about to breach our roadblock and Andrew sends them on their way just by refusing to co-operate. The power of one human’s will to effect change.”
Gina Dowding, who attended the XR protests in London this week said: “Opponents of Cuadrilla’s operation at Preston New Road near Blackpool said this backs up their case that police used arrests as a tactic to remove protesters from the site.
“With less than half of the arrests at Preston New Road resulting in convictions, it is apparent that the policing tactics at protests seem to be directed as an over-zealous deterrent, rather than facilitating the right to protest, as the police continually state they are doing.
“This begs the question: where is the direction coming from for our police resources to be spent in this way? Where is the consent from the public for police to be targeting peaceful protest rather than the real criminal gangs and corporate fraud which really undermines society?”