by Meike Eijsberg and Annina Claesson
On Oct. 7, Extinction Rebellion launched its largest action yet, titled International Rebellion. At 10 a.m., the peaceful protest kicked off in London, where the rebel group began. Throughout the day, Extinction Rebellion groups in cities across the entire world gradually followed suit.
The Paris Globalist reporters set out to find the young rebels that morning, but were initially unsuccessful. It was only in the late afternoon that the French finally joined in. The following photos show a visual journey of the protests, strikes and celebrations that the French Extinction Rebellion group put together.
Everything was in full swing when we arrived later that afternoon. Extinction Rebellion had managed to block a total of seven roads, all surrounding Place du Châtelet. Protesters chose a wide range of methods: some were partying, while others were casually reading in their hammocks.
“Why am I here?” said one of the youngest volunteers (pictured below). “For us. I’m very convinced that we need to act now in order to fight climate change and against the system that is destroying our planet.”
Just like many others, she was very impressed by the work that everyone had put in. “The first day of the occupation, Monday, I was in the kitchen cooking the entire afternoon, so I didn’t see how everything was installed. When I arrived, it was already occupied. I was like: ‘Wow, that’s impressive.’ They achieved so much in such a short time.”
“I see the movement as the call of millions defending themselves,” said one organiser (below). “It’s about refusing the crisis that will arrive if we continue on our current trajectory. We’re showing this physically by putting ourselves right in the middle of the political and cultural system that is destroying us.”
He hopes that the high-profile installations attracts more people to join their cause. “We want to raise awareness of the issue on a deeper level. We want to repeat these days of action regularly in order to reach our political goals, particularly the establishment of a citizen’s assembly.”
When the evening fell, energy levels only escalated. Choirs began chanting, trumpets began blasting, and everyone started dancing. The Pont au Change turned into an open-air club, with DJs playing to the new tune “Plus chaud que le climat (Hotter than the climate).”
When we returned a few days later, the blockade had been transformed into a fully-functional camp. The square had been turned into the general citizen’s assembly point of the movement. Here, protesters as well as curious bypassers could find everything from art installations denouncing wasteful electric scooters to mini-libraries filled with eco literature.
Extinction Rebellion is a movement centred on civil disobedience and disrupting the normal order of public life to call attention to the climate crisis. However, Paris authorities largely left the Châtelet camp alone. Further west, around Place d’Étoile, protesters were met with more police resistance whilst cycling around the Arc de Triomphe.
“The word resistance is important. We are in a situation that requires us to prepare and organise together, almost as in a war,” another organiser (below) explained. “This is an opportunity for many people, to get involved in a very well-structured organisation with a clear vision, even if they don’t have much experience as activists.”
Others emphasised the importance of how Extinction Rebellion has allowed people to come together to formulate political alternatives in the face of the climate crisis.
“For the past 10 months, we’ve been building something that will last through time,” said a former trade unionist who is now active in the movement. “If we have to change our way of life tomorrow, with no more oil or carbon emissions, no more materials that we know, we will have to come together to figure out how to live. It’s not about one without the other, it’s about living with each other.”
The Extinction Rebellion Movement is not about to scale back or cease their action anytime soon. The movement has played an instrumental role in creating the surge in public concern about the climate crisis. Even after the current blockades, mobilisation is likely to increase and intensify, increasing pressure on decision makers to listen to the movement’s policy demands. We are likely to see a lot of creative forms of protest along the way.