Blog | Embarking on rebellion

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, Lauren tells her story of embarking on a new journey of rebellion.

Rebels and police on Waterloo Bridge
Photography credit: Andy Reeves

It’s Easter Sunday and I’m sitting in the sunshine in central London with my partner Leo, who I’m due to marry in six days’ time. This may sound like a romantic pre-wedding trip to the capital, but in fact we’re in the middle of a crowd of rebels on Waterloo Bridge awaiting arrest.

A few weeks earlier, neither of us had heard of Extinction Rebellion. We had both got to the stage where we could no longer watch nature documentaries without breaking down in floods of tears, but we felt powerless to prevent the unfolding crisis. 

As the April rebellion approached, I began to see artwork spring up across Bristol, where I live and work. Bright murals on the walls of the Bearpit roundabout told me that on 15 April, an international rebellion would begin, to demand the Government tell the truth about the climate and ecological emergency, and act now to halt carbon emissions and biodiversity loss. These finally felt like demands proportional to the crisis, and the more I looked, I was excited to see posters on walls, stickers on lampposts and stencils on the ground. The rebellion was everywhere, summoning me to join. I couldn’t help feeling that I had been waiting all my life to be part of this movement.

Over the next couple of weeks, Leo and I geeked out on anything XR-related we could get our hands on. We wanted to understand everything about this movement – what it meant to be part of it and how we could get involved. We realised we had had our heads stuck firmly in the sand of cognitive dissonance for too long, and needed to face up to the reality of climate breakdown. And do something about it.

Finally the rebellion arrived. Neither of us had booked time off work, so we eagerly read every news report and followed social media updates for news of the pink boat at Oxford Circus, the campsite at Marble Arch, the garden on Waterloo Bridge, and so much more. We were watching it spring to life from afar, waiting for the long weekend when we’d be able to take part ourselves.

And so on Saturday afternoon we hopped on a Megabus with our placards and rucksacks and arrived at Marble Arch late in the evening, bouncing up to the info tent and asking how we could help. We were put on stewarding duty for the night, defending the campsite from drunken revellers, and then in the morning we set off to Waterloo Bridge, where we were given a whistle-stop introduction to XR and non-violent direct action training before someone shouted “police are approaching, we need people on the frontline!”

So there we found ourselves, holding hands in the baking sun, listening to Indigenous Amazonian people tell us about their lands being destroyed, crying with our newly found grief for the destruction of our beautiful planet, and knowing this was exactly where we needed to be.

Our arrests came 12 hours later, and we were finally bundled into a van and taken almost out to Essex as empty police cells in London were so sparse by that point in the rebellion. I spent the night awake under glaring lights, worrying whether Leo was ok, only to be told later he was “the happiest person we’ve ever had in here”. By the time we got let out some 18 hours later, Leo had serenaded his lonely cell with renditions of Shakira and written his whole wedding speech.

Little did we know at that point, over the coming months we would not only embark on a journey as a newly-wed couple, but we would also embark on a journey of rage at the systems that have created this planetary emergency, grief for all that has been lost and despair at the inertia of people in power. At a time when most young couples are eagerly planning their future, we would be waking up to the painful reality of what the future may hold.

For lots of people in the movement the April rebellion was the culmination of many months’ hard work, but for Leo and me it was just the beginning.


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