Blog | Sunrise at Oxford Circus
April 15, 2020
This blog is part of a series celebrating the anniversary of our first International Rebellion in April 2019 – sharing memories from the two weeks that steered the ship of system change and raised the flag of Rebellion. In this blog, Dimi Shoe shares her story of being aboard Berta Caceres, the pink boat, on Berta’s epic final day at Oxford Circus.
The rebels that had stayed up through the night were just watching the fourth sunrise, appearing behind the pink boat that was peacefully moored in the middle of the junction. She (the boat) was named Berta in honour of Berta Caceres, the Honduran environmental activist, but to those of us responsible for painting her pink, she was known as “Rose Glory” (the name of that particular shade of pink.)
James and the rest of the “boat crew” managing the stage had all gone home for the night to regenerate after four intensely emotional and beautifully chaotic days of occupation. In their absence, Will and I had taken over, making sure Berta and all the incredible rebels camping out on the streets could have a peaceful night. I had volunteered to stay up throughout the night while Will was grabbing some kip in the boat cabin.
It’s incredibly difficult to describe what it was like, spending the night there… feeling utterly exposed yet genuinely safe amongst strangers who had chosen to be there with you, experiencing the brief and complete stillness that comes just before the dawn… exploring the space offered by the quiet night, reflecting on the day that’s just been, so full of life, grief and purpose.
And as the sun rose, Oxford Circus began to slowly awaken. Berta shown bright underneath the morning light as the brave “barnacles” that had spend the night locked on to her began to stir. The night shift had come to an end and day five of occupation was about to start. That day was the day they took her away…
The view from the top of the boat was indeed something special. Jen, Ruby and I were on “deck duty” for the morning shift and although I had just done a night shift on the ground, I never felt more alive and happy as that Friday morning.
Not knowing how to set up the mics and sound, we had been using a megaphone to “hold the space” we had created, reminding us all “why we were there” in the middle of one of the busiest junctions in central London. And from the top of the boat, we saw the morning commuters stepping out of the tube station and into this space of strange creatures, stretching their tired bodies with morning yoga, sitting around a pink boat with a bowl of delicious porridge, warming up their bellies and getting ready for another day of disobedience…
Just then we got a message saying that Emma Thomson was due to arrive any minute now hoping to speak from atop Berta. James and Olly who had been setting up the sound were still not on site and so it was up to us to make it happen. That’s when Jack came in and saved the day.
I had only met Jack a few hours ago, during my night shift and had found out that he was a sound engineer. And there he was amongst the crowd! I explained the situation to him and he was happy to take this on. He put on the official captain’s hat that we kept aboard Berta, got into character and started setting up just in time for Emma’s arrival. Day five was now in full swing, promising to be an unforgettable one.
And then they came in full force, determined to take her away. This time, they would succeed… “enough was enough” they thought as they circled her, forming a neon yellow hi-vis circle that separated us from her…
And then they formed a second circle around us who were sat down, refusing to leave. If you stayed in the circle, they would arrest you, they would have to, to get to her… and so we stayed.
“Captain Jack” was the only one still on board, watching all this unfold from a panoramic perspective that only Berta could share. As the arrests commenced, Sir David Attenborough’s voice came blasting through the speakers accompanied by some epic orchestral sounds as Jack played the opening credits of Planet Earth II and everyone cheered for the beginning of the “season finale” of the Oxford Circus site had began…
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