Exchanging more than pleasantries on Peckham Rye Common: The XR climate activists and their young supporters…

By Regina Motalib, Local Democracy Reporter

The Extinction Rebellion Movement often receive criticism for the mass disruption caused by their protests and are labelled by many as “environmental fanatics”.

The organisation also known as XR describes itself as a global “non-violent civil disobedience movement” and is known to disrupt on a major scale in order to get their climate concern messages across.

Famous for locking and gluing themselves onto buildings and roads- their latest protests in London have included bringing traffic on major central London roads to a standstill – by sitting down in Oxford Circus – and blocking traffic in both directions.

They’ve also abseiled off Tower Bridge to unfurl a banner reading “End Fossil Fuel Now”.

Lloyd’s of London was also forced to close it’s headquarters during April’s protests and major oil companies such as Shell were also targeted.

However, despite costing the Metropolitan Police millions of pounds, they received a warm welcome and support from the local community when they recently set up camp for one week in Peckham Rye Park.

Younger people in particular, have appreciated their presence and their message.

An unauthorised campsite was set up on the edge of Peckham Rye Common as a resting base for activists whilst they carried out their latest wave of protests in the capital. Southwark Council said in a statement they do not support Extinction Rebellion’s use of the park as a camp.

Extinction Rebellion activists

They added: “This remains an unauthorised event in a much loved and well used park. We have not provided any facilities or equipment – it is being managed by XR themselves. We have had to take a pragmatic approach to their not seeking our permission, while acknowledging that they have the support of many residents across the borough in addressing the damaging effects of climate change.”

Locals mainly responded positively and were welcomed with a banner over an information stall which read “Come to the table” – Many walked over to the campsite – dotted with dozens of brightly coloured tents and extinction rebellion flags – to say hello and offer food, refreshments and words of support and appreciation. In return, they received a warm welcome, stickers and badges and home-grown cacti plants.

Amongst the well wishers were a group of local artists.

Tamu Nkiwane , 31, is an artist and founder of an underground community centre for young people in Peckham. He expressed his approval of the interest younger people have taken in Extinction Rebellion.

He said: “It’s quite interesting how the youth have interacted with the movement. I think it’s quite empowering to have a young voice. Younger people and especially children, are far more informed about the dangers of what is going to happen because they’re growing up in this environment. In a weird way, they have a better understanding even though they are younger.”

Tamu strongly believes younger people should certainly have a say.

He explained: “I think there shouldn’t be this huge generation gap and that is the problem with power and politics. Youth should be able to represent their time and not wait till they’re 60 years old to have a real voice about how their country and their world is being managed.”

Jordan Chay, 26, is a local musician and echoes the need to engage and involve younger people.

He said: “It’s great to be at the park and around the climate protestors. I was at the first Extinction Rebellion gathering in Central London. I participated for a few days and then went to work straight after. I’m not heavily involved with Extinction Rebellion, but I think it’s very important for young people to come together and participate. It’s such an important matter and effects our future.”

Soul Awodejiowuladamani-Pelemo, 23, is an artist and felt glad seeing the tents in the park.

He said: “It’s great to see these tents as it shows their commitment to their cause and they are in it for the long run. I may not be pitching a tent like Extinction Rebellion but I’m doing my bit, through my art. So we are collectively working together on this important world issue.

“My voice isn’t for the politicians, it’s for my demographic. I’m a generation of the internet. Technology is there to help us share our message. It’s the first time you can go anywhere in the world via the web and find people who see things your way. The internet has made the climate message even more profound. It’s so empowering for a young person to know they are not the only ones feeling like this. It’s a collective, we are working in unity and we can do this.”

Soul feels privileged to even have a voice.

He added: “ So many young people in the world don’t even have a chance to get their voices heard – as youth who can speak out, we need to give others a voice too.”

 

 


 

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