The problem with being a nice, quiet protestor is that a lot of people don’t take any notice of you. Groups like Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil might annoy people with their protests but at least their tactics always draw attention to their cause.
It’s important to add, I think, that all these movements are non-violent and that they leave their protest sites as they found them, with no mess left behind.
I’ve joined protests organised by these groups and I’ve used very mild direct-action methods at my own anti-ageism protests and I’m convinced that causing minor disruption is the best way to get people to stop and listen for a moment, or at least take notice of you.
I’m convinced that causing minor disruption is the best way to get people to stop and listen for a moment, or at least take notice of you.
Insulate Britain feel they have no choice but to block roads because that’s the only way to get the Government’s attention. Their intentions are really good: to raise awareness about the climate crisis and fuel poverty, especially in the wintertime. To them, there is no other option.
The climate crisis now is so bad they feel they have to do whatever it takes to get the Government and oil companies to wake up and smell the coffee (or the burning forests and homes!), even if it means putting their lives on the line by occupying busy motorways. If they could choose between sitting on a wet road in front of enraged drivers or being with family, tucking and into a Sunday roast (or maybe more likely a vegan sausage roll) I’m sure they’d rather be safely in doors with family. Who wouldn’t?
I have joined several environmental protests and a Don’t Pay UK protest and at one of them – Just Stop Oil – I even sat in the road and blocked traffic. At first, when only a few people were sitting on the road, I felt really nervous about joining them, but when lots of people did it, I felt more confident and I sat on the tarmac too.
I also joined the Extinction Rebellion/Insulate Britain demonstration last year that blocked the Lord Mayor’s parade from getting through the City of London. I saw visitors to the Lord Mayor’s show who were refusing to take flyers from Insulate Britain even though the group has got a very good and valid point.
If they could choose between sitting on a wet road in front of enraged drivers or being with family, tucking and into a Sunday roast (or maybe more likely a vegan sausage roll) I’m sure they’d rather be safely in doors with family. Who wouldn’t?
I felt really good when I joined these protests. I suffer from climate anxiety and joining these protests made me feel better about it. I still feel anxious about the state of our planet but at least I know I’ve tried to do something about it. Also, I was hopeful that me and the other activists would get to know each other and have conversations about how to create change. That’s the other thing about protests – they are a cheap way to meet people, make friends and have conversations about the things that really matter.
I suffer from climate anxiety and joining these protests made me feel better about it. I still feel anxious about the state of our planet but at least I know I’ve tried to do something about it.
When I’ve used direct action methods at my own protests, I’ve made sure the disruption is really short-lived so that people can get on with their day-to-day lives and do things like attend hospital appointments and get to work.
In the autumn of 2021, I used soft direct action methods in Chalk Farm and Green Lanes to raise awareness of my anti-ageism campaign. I wasn’t carrying any banners or placards so I relied just on these methods to get my message across. I stood in the road whenever there was a green light in hopes that some people would ask me what the matter was. My plan was to seize the opportunity and tell them about my anti-ageism campaign. The problem is that if you do everything nicely people just don’t pay attention.
I feel these methods worked quite well. It was powerful. People were concerned about my safety and that got them talking to me, which meant I could tell them about my anti-ageism work.
In the future, I would be willing to get arrested and get myself into hot water to make my point. I’ve even considered going on to raise awareness about loneliness and ageism in a powerful way. Even if I did those things, I’d make sure I didn’t get in other people’s way too much. If an ambulance needed to get past, for example, I would move aside.
I must say I haven’t seen very many other Disabled people at all these demonstrations, though I have met a few other neurodivergent protestors here and there. I think one thing that would encourage more Disabled people to join these protests in London is if public transport was improved so that more Disabled people could use the tube system and buses.