A 28-year-old Roman tattoo artist and a 67-year-old Berlin doctor. A unemployed taxi driver who joins an environmental movement in Paris for the first time and a Madrid engineer who has been involved in activism for 18 years. Everyone has found their site in Extinction Rebellion (XR), a transverse movement without hierarchies that protests against the paralysis of governments in the fight against climate change and environmental degradation.
Born in 2018 in the United Kingdom, this organization that asks the states to declare the “climatic and ecological emergency” with concrete measures has gained followers and visibility quickly. And it is characterized by mixing artistic protests – with allegorical costumes and representations – and civil and peaceful disobedience. They are thus heirs in part of some animalistic movement in its most theatrical aspect and of the classical environmental groups, such as Greenpeace, accustomed to being arrested in their also always peaceful protests. During this week, the Extinction Rebellion have launched into the streets of some 60 capitals, most of them in Europe, where this urban activism formed by those who, in addition to striking as the young Swedish Greta Thunberg, go one step further.
But who are those people who appear in the photographs taken in fliers by the police? It is difficult to draw a unique profile of this new activism. There are those with long experience in the environmental struggle or who have just landed in the protest. EL PAÍS has spoken with 17 of them throughout Europe. The oldest is 74 years old and is from London; The youngest is 21 and lives in Berlin. In addition to their awareness, these people are united by another determination: they are willing to be detained in order to make their protest spread and have more impact. That is why they are chained to cut traffic on bridges and roads and end up at the police stations from which, yes, they leave within a few hours. Five of the 17 interviewed in this article ended up arrested this week.
Eric Winner, a 42-year-old London artist, who considers himself a “first wave” Extinction Rebellion, sums up this movement well: he says he is ready to “be one of the arresters,” as those who put themselves in the United Kingdom are called front row, they are chained or thrown to the ground. Everyone is trained to know how to resist peacefully before the police. “They hurt me a little by taking me to the van, but an arrest is like that. The treatment of the police was good, unlike in other countries and that is a privilege, ”explains Pippi Van Ommen, a Berliner who demonstrated this week with her father, her brother and her grandmother.
During the week the activists of Extinction Rebellion have cut streets (like Raimundo Fernández Villaverde, in Madrid), blocked bridges (like the Pont au Changue in Paris), I tried to occupy shopping centers and the London City airport. They have also camped. "I had never been part of any movement, although I have made specific collaborations, especially economic … Now I am a member of the commission of talks and dissemination of XR Barcelona," explained Juli Gaitano from the Madrid camp. “This is the first time I have joined something like this on the ground. Now I collaborate in the kitchen of the Chatelet Square camp, ”said Ammar Saidi from the one in Paris.
EGBERT BORN | 53 YEARS | POET
"XR fits into my defense of civil disobedience to shake consciences in the face of the climate crisis. It's a group full of energy that grows amazingly. It appeals to emotions. To a vision of a destroyed future if we don't act. I'm part of the team. Press report, we are 45, communicators, photographers, social networks … I have participated in a fortnight of demonstrations.On the 7th day in front of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam it took us three months to prepare it.The area was full of riot gear, there was only I saw such a deployment in risk football matches, but I was able to evade the agents and made many videos for Twitter. A few weeks ago tens of thousands of people demonstrated with permission in The Hague and on the news it was a secondary issue. But after the XR civil disobedience action in Amsterdam we received calls from Tokyo to New York and we were the first news item. We must show that we are serious. ”
"I take precautions to avoid being arrested, because I could not help as a spokesman if I get arrested again, especially since I already have a record for my previous activism. In Holland there are good lawyers, so you go out at six o'clock in the street. It comes later, because you never know if they will accuse you of something after a few months. ”
PIPPI VAN OMMEN | 23 YEARS | MASTER STUDENT
"I am what can be considered a good girl who is not usually against authority, but I am very worried. If the sea level rises up to two meters, my hometown, and much of my country will not resist it. I would like have children someday, but what kind of planet are we going to leave to our descendants? "
"I was not an activist before. I met Extinction Rebellion through Instagram and now I dedicate all my time, although before Christmas I have to deliver the master's thesis. XR is not right or left. Represents all social sectors and bands of age, there is no hierarchy and the atmosphere is cozy. I went to the demonstration before the Rijksmuseum, in Amsterdam, where my father and my brother also went. My grandmother followed him at a distance, by age. The police stopped me "I spent 10 hours on hold. The legal maximum is six, but the agents told me that we were so many that did not provide enough to fill in the reports. They hurt me a little by taking me to the van, but an arrest is like that. Then the personal treatment with Police were good. We were talking, the atmosphere was friendly. In other countries it doesn't happen the same. I was fined and nothing more. The difference in treatment by the police is huge compared to other countries. And that is a privilege. "
EVA OSTERHEIDER | 21 YEARS | STUDENT OF AFRICAN STUDIES
"I joined XR at the beginning of September and I have met many interesting people. Concrete actions such as blockades of streets and bridges are something totally new and with them we achieve much more than with internal discussions. I have always been politically active in different movements and I played in the Liberal party, but I realized that they didn't contribute much to the fight against climate change. So far I have not had problems with the police and I have not weighed on it, but if some people stop me it will be a great experience. "
ARVIN JASPER | 25 YEARS | ECONOMY AND ENERGY STUDENT
"I have been part of XR for a month. I have chained myself to the Victory Column and participated in the blockade of the Marschall Bridge in Berlin. And I will continue to participate, the rebellion continues. I have not had problems with police, although it has taken me out the force in some protests The jail is a challenge and I am not afraid of being arrested I will continue to participate, the rebellion continues The measures they approve to fight against climate change will not serve to end the problem We are now facing warming of 3 degrees, a terrible ecological and humanitarian catastrophe that will radically change the lives of millions of people And what does the government do? Nothing to prevent it. "
ADELHEID LÜCHTRATH | 67 YEARS | DOCTOR
"I have never been arrested, nor fined, but I would be arrested and spent a season in jail, if I can help in defending the climate. I have been fighting climate change for 40 years because politicians have done nothing. They have not wanted to react, they talk, talk and talk, but they never do anything concrete We must tell them that the time has come to act XR is very peaceful, a resistance movement, but without aggression, what they underline in each protest is that it is already too late".
LINDA GATTO | 28 YEARS | TATUADORA AND LICENSED IN PHYSICS AND CHEMISTRY
“I started collaborating with Extinction Rebellion a year ago, when the movement was born in the United Kingdom. I liked the strategy, capacity and organization and nonviolence. People no longer trust their ability to have power, to take a position. They do not feel represented, and that puts us at the mercy of the few decisions. XR is revolutionary because it gives space to civil disobedience. ”
LORENZO VECCHIO | 38 YEARS | COOPERANT
“I am a slave to justice. Where there is no justice, I activate. And climate justice is the first, because it affects us all. It is a transgenerational value. What we burn today, 16-year-old boys like Greta can't burn. We ask that our elections not be paid by the following generations. The message of XR promotes the most noble gesture: individual sacrifice for the common good. This reveals a philosophy of life. XR is inclusive, horizontal. It gives me space and who has been in activism for a long time. "
“To do direct nonviolent action, you must train. Know how to behave, know the legal consequences. In that I am now. Blocking the streets in Italy has a much higher penalty than in most countries. Am I willing to get arrested? Absolutely".
ERIC WINNERT | 42 YEARS | ARTIST
"I immediately threw myself into the street. I am from the first wave of Extincition Rebelion. We started in Parliament, the police harassed us, and we spent a week playing cat and mouse, to keep the street occupied. I am not even one of those 'arrestable', of those who are willing to chain themselves or lie on the ground for the police to stop them, but I am determined to be one of them in the next action in which I participate. The police do not like us, Boris Johnson has called smelly grumpy. I consider all that positive signs. People in the street give us courage and tell us that they are with us. It is the power of citizenship. At first I thought it would be a movement of grassroots activists, and I was surprised to see many White middle-class and hardworking women, I think this has gone a long way and they won't be able to stop it, the catastrophe is just around the corner, there are no summers or winters in England anymore, it's a warm and nondescript grave. we can p stay out of the way. "
DIANA FRANCIS | 74 YEARS | CONSULTANT AND SOCIAL CONSULTANT
"During a meeting a deputy from the Green Party told us about Extinction Rebelion and then I signed up. I've been on the street since the beginning of the week, with my husband. They arrested my daughter last Monday, when I cooked for the rest of the activists. I have assumed risks and I will continue to do so. We have to rebel. It is no longer worth trying to persuade people with friendly and calm ways. People do not listen. The Government's proposal to achieve zero emissions by 2050 is ridiculous. People are dying in less countries developed, and the fault is ours. We are the main polluters. "
JORGE RIECHMANN | 57 YEARS | PROFESSOR OF MORAL AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY AT UAM
"We are living in an extreme situation in which the vast majority of society does not seem to be aware. I usually summarize it in the following formula: we are in an ecocide that will lead to genocide. In fact, there are many reasons to think that economic and political elites take for granted the extermination of a large part of humanity. And it is against this what civil disobedience groups are reacting to. "
"I am a member of Ecologists in Action and I have been involved in environmental activism since 1984; I mobilized in the campaign on the referendum of the exit of Spain from NATO, we have chained ourselves at the door of the Nuclear Safety Council and participated in many other actions … But Monday was the first time that they arrested me in a protest. We have to denounce that we have repressive legislation that is reducing the quality of our democracy. Because civil disobedience movements are asking to democratize democracy. decisions that are beneficial to the whole society. On the other hand, of course we need actions that go beyond simple written requests or electoral efforts. "
MARATA GARCÍA PALLARÉS | 28 YEARS | MASTER IN NATURAL RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
"I am a member of 2020 Climate Rebellion. In XR I have collaborated in the area of communication and logistics. We are moving towards the absolute collapse of ecosystems. The situation is so critical that I am willing to use any type of tool that helps to contribute to this fight, whether through legal demonstrations or activism through civil disobedience, in the blockade of the New Ministries bridge I was in the front row of the action and we hope that there will be administrative sanctions to which we will resort. Ministry. I am absolutely willing to expose my body for this cause. If they arrested me or fined me it would be because our rulers are not doing their job. "
PACO DEL WELL | 39 YEARS | ENGINEER AND ACTIVIST OF THE PLATFORM 2020 REBELLION BY THE CLIMATE
"I got involved with ecological activism over 18 years ago. I started with Greenpeace. If they don't listen to us for good, we are forced to make nonviolent passive resistance. They stopped me last Monday. Riot police came and asked us to move "We explained that our duty was to disobey. They began to take out the partners one by one. Randomly detained three people. I don't think we did any more or less resistance than my partners. Was it worth it? It's like if you ask Gandhi or Mandela if it was worth their fight, they hurt us, they threaten us to fine us … but the change is not easy We have been announcing that this has to change for years, considering the magnitude of the climate crisis , backed by science, civil disobedience is perhaps the only way proportional to the problem. Maybe before sending letters, recycling and demonstrating was enough because the danger was not so close.
MARÍA PAZOS MORÁN | 66 YEARS | PUBLIC ECONOMY RESEARCHER
"I was inspired by Greta Thunberg's speech and by that time I learned about this movement in London. XR is very radical, with utopian demands … But we live in a dystopia. We are all in the same boat, and we are making a Last call: it is rebellion or extinction. We have the obligation and the right to rebel. We adopt the path of active hope. "
ZAZOU | 22 years old | ARCHEOLOGY STUDENT
"I had never belonged to a group and it's only been two weeks since I've been in XR … I come to the camp every day and I recognize that I've skipped several classes to be here. Since Wednesday I also sleep in a shop in the square In XR there are no people who tell you that you have to do this or that, which is why I like it, we have freedom to claim what interests us, to change the world at an ecological level, we must destroy capitalism. they stop me, but what is happening is so serious and – it must also be said – I am lucky to be French, to be white and to live in France. I risk much less than others. "
AMMAR SAIDI | 27 YEARS | STOP TAXIST
"It is the first time that I got involved in the field in something like that, I used to follow it at a distance. I joined XR on Monday and now I collaborate in the kitchen of the Chatelet Plaza camp and I also take care of the night's security at the site. I support all the causes that are just. If they need my help, I am there. I would not mind assuming the legal consequences. From the moment we are being persecuted, we must know how to respond. First peacefully, but if necessary, we will have to defend ourselves. " .
CHELO GARCÍA | 61 YEARS | YOGA TEACHER AND PSYCHOTHERAPIST
"I have not been in any other movement but I consider myself an activist by nature. For me XR has responded to a personal need to do something in this moment of social madness … I mean the system of excessive consumption. We are discarding waste that the planet cannot absorb. During the blockade of the Nuevos Ministerios bridge in Madrid I was identified, retained and had a small wrist injury when I was transferred from the bridge to the police van, which I did not report. It was free, there was no resistance, I was next to the policeman and my wrist was twisting. "
JULI GAITANO | 39 YEARS | SUSTAINABLE GARDEN SERVICES COMPANY MANAGER
"I had never been part of any movement, although I have made specific collaborations, especially economic … We face the greatest challenge that humanity will live in the coming decades. I am now a member of the talk and dissemination commission of XR Barcelona. It is a very transversal movement, there are no hierarchies, nobody judges you, all people are heard and respected, even if you have just entered the movement. On October 7, the police made a small jaw injury by dragging me. "
With information from Manuel Planelles and profiles of Noor Mahtani (Madrii), Rafa de Miguel (London), Isabel Ferrer (Amsterdam), Daniel Verdú (Rome), Silvia Ayuso (Paris) Rocabert sea (Barcelona) and Enrique Müller (Berlin)
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