At XR’s The Big One

Together with 60,000 people and 200 organisations, we took part in XR’s The Big One, four days of action 21-24 April, around Parliament to force the UK government to act on the climate emergency. Alongside the big actions, many events were held by groups across a wide range of issues.

Getting ready at the Crossroads Women’s Centre.  Claire and Heulwen making placards.  Cristel and team making the Women Care yellow banner on a big table.  Behind them, Kay and team making the tabards (sleeveless tops) on sewing machines.
Getting ready at the Crossroads Women’s Centre.  Claire and Heulwen making placards.  Cristel and team making the Women Care yellow banner on a big table.  Behind them, Kay and team making the tabards (sleeveless tops) on sewing machines.
Day 1, #Unite to survive
People’s Picket of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
Outside a government building named Caxton House, people with banners stand in the rain. A woman is speaking on the microphone next to a sign language interpreter. Banners say WinVisible -- women with visible & invisible disabilities. Green economy -- green pensions -- green future. Ariane wears a placard "DWP and energy companies. No forced benefit deductions, prepay meters. Cut your profits, not our benefits." Security guards wear hi-vis jackets.
Hosted by Extinction Rebellion Disabled Rebels, XR Grandparents and Elders, with Disabled People Against Cuts, we picketed Caxton House, the headquarters of the DWP. Claimants spoke out against the brutality and insecurity of the disability benefits system. We demanded our benefit and pension rights, older and younger, immigrant and UK-born. Against benefit sanctions and cut-offs of mothers, forced deductions for energy bills.
A man pushing a child in a buggy passes by the DWP building and pensioners holding a long yellow banner -- Rebel for their future -- XR grandparents + elders.
XR Grandparents and Elders picketted the DWP at the front and side entrances
Outside a government building named Caxton House, a woman wheelchair user speaks on the microphone. A banner saying People's Picket with various photos and logos pinned to it, is placed in front of the building doors which the authorities have blocked with metal barriers. A woman interprets in sign. Another wheelchair user is there.
We highlighted how the raising of retirement age has hit older women. Women in our late 50s and early 60s are shocked at being made to do job search as a condition of benefit, when we are not just older but often have illness and disabilities from a lifetime of work which harms our health. Women in poorer and post-industrial areas need disability benefits around 10 years earlier than in better-off places. Speaking out against benefit cuts and deaths of sick and disabled people caused by DWP brutality. We remembered Elaine Morrall, Lilian Oluk and baby Lynne Matumba, Philippa Day, Jodey Whiting…
In front of Caxton House, holding XR dark pink banners with slogans in capitals: People's Picket.  Green economy, green pensions, green future.  Invest in caring not killing.
A woman wearing an anorak holds a placard: DWP & energy companies -- No forced benefit deductions/prepay meters.  Cut your profits, not our benefits!
We protested that the DWP is appealing against Helen Timson’s court win against benefit deductions without consent to pay off energy and water companies. Last year, a judge ruled that claimants must have a say before “Third Party Deductions” are made and we are impoverished.
The Invest in caring not killing banner is draped on a metal crash barrier in front of Caxton House.
The authorities had closed the main door to Caxton House and blocked it with metal crash barriers, so we decorated these with our banners. XR Grandparents and Elders went to the side entrance which staff were using, and sang songs.
A group of four women, two wheelchair users in front. Lani's chair is made into a trike, her baby is in a sling under a waterproof cape.  Claire has a placard, women with disabilities are CARERS too! For ourselves, people & planet.  Ariane wears a hi-vis jacket and pink placard, Queer mothers demand a living wage -- Queer Strike.
Opposite Downing St, we met Lani with baby Eliot and Terese.
“Women Care” Speak Out, Downing St
Photo from above. A crowd of mainly women, some wearing yellow tabards (sleeveless tops), listen to speakers in front of a big yellow banner which says: Women Care 4 people and planet. Pay us -- NOT billionaire polluters. Heidi Gedge holds a placard over her shoulder "Justice for the Bristol protesters -- support Mariella". Someone has a placard, Fathers join mothers vs climate chaos.

Diverse networks of mothers, grandmothers, other carers and people with disabilities spoke out on refusing poverty, the devaluing of caring and cuts in benefits, and the criminalisation of protests. The government wants to cut mothers’ and disabled people’s benefits, to force us “back to work” regardless of needs, wishes or poverty wages – stealing our survival entitlements to enrich fossil fuel polluters and other destructive industries. Raising children and coping with disability and ill-health is essential work which should be supported not punished.

Women from the Disabled Mothers’ Rights Campaign, East London Unite Community, Judicial Review Implementation and Monitoring Group (Norfolk), Newham Disability Reps Forum and WinVisible took part in discussions to plan the Speak Out and sent voice messages too.

Here are some of the many speakers.

In front of the Women Care yellow banner, an African woman speaks on the microphone. She wears a placard with red writing -- Jail criminal polluters -- free those protesting who care for people and planet. Cristel from Women of Colour in the Global Women's Strike looks on. Behind are large trees.
Trinity from the All African Women’s Group spoke against theft from Africa and the government’s cruel immigration policies which deny refugee mothers fleeing to the UK, reunion with our children left behind.
A woman with blond hair speaks on the microphone in front of the Women Care banner. She is wearing a yellow tabard (sleeveless top) with a women's symbol, red heart and other writing. Women holding the banner behind her listen intently.
Tina Rothery tells how the Nanas Against Fracking
won the ban against fracking in Lancashire and the UK. Fracking is a type of drilling the land for gas which pollutes the air and water, and the drilling triggers earthquakes.
An indigenous woman from Peru speaks into the microphone. She is wearing a felt hat decorated with a multi-coloured band, yellow tabard and placard which says "A Care Income for..."
Lourdes Huanca, President of
(national federation of indigenous, rural & other women of Peru) spoke about their resistance to mining and against the military dictatorship who are backed by the international mining companies.
n older woman is sitting on a folding chair holding her crutch. She is wearing a yellow tabard (sleeveless top) and a placard which says Stop $1.8 trillion a year subsidy to oil, coal. She is sitting next to Trinity from the All African Women's Group. Behind them is a placard, Obscene oil: £3 billion profit a day for 50 years!
Heulwen from WinVisible (on left) spoke against nuclear energy. She said it is not clean, green or safe. Her health was affected by radiation from the Windscale nuclear power plant fire in 1957 which spread from Cumbria to Wales and beyond. The plant is now called Sellafield.
Holding a placard. A nuclear symbol is crossed out. Nuclear energy is NOT clean, green or safe! #WomenCare!
A lot of people were glad to see our placard and took pictures, as nuclear energy is wrongly put forward as the answer to fossil fuels.
A crowd marches past Parliament and the Big Ben tower. Women carry a large yellow banner with woman's symbol and red and black lettering -- "Women Care for people & planet. Pay us -- NOT billionaire polluters." Further away are people holding umbrellas, painted with slogans like Act Now. A woman holds a pink placard, Queer mothers demand living wage.
We joined the big march which came past Parliament
DAY 2, #Earth Day
Marilyn Reed holds a microphone and is wearing a placard, Black women's lives matter. Sara from Women of Colour Global Women's Strike is looking on and holding a placard, Happy Birthday Mumia.
Marilyn Reed (on mic) called for justice for her daughter Sarah Reed who died in Holloway Prison in 2016. Sarah was arrested for resisting an attempted sexual assault in psychiatric hospital. Janey Starling from No Births Behind Bars also spoke. Part of Saturday’s #Mumia birthday event for those wrongly imprisoned.
A crowd has gathered in a corner of Parliament Square in front of the Free Mumia banner and various others banners. Placards against wrongful imprisonment are laid on the pavement.

Then we joined the The Big One for Biodiversity march, which culminated in a symbolic die-in at 3pm to call attention to all the species now extinct or under threat of extinction.

People lying in the road along Millbank. There are thousands that stretch far into the distance where buildings next to Parliament can be seen.
The die-in on 22 April, a very powerful peaceful action by thousands of people.
People lying in the road along Millbank. There are thousands who stretch far into the distance.
Looking down Millbank at the die-in. Colleagues and WinVisible women are next to the Red Rebel Brigade procession. It was a really impressive protest against destruction of life on earth.
DAY 3, Running out of time

Sunday 23 April was the London Marathon as well as Extinction Rebellion events.

Climate Justice = Migrant Justice

20,000 Small Boats Action

At the Home Office, people made thousands of origami pink paper boats to be posted to MPs and Home Secretary Suella Braverman, printed with a letter against the Illegal Migration Bill and welcoming people seeking asylum in the UK.

Click here for more about the rally co-hosted by Global Women Against Deportations. Refugee and UK-born disabled women who could not get to the event, were thrilled to watch the livestream on The Big One TV YouTube (starts 4:45).

Still from The Big One TV.  Three women of colour stand in front of the Home Office building in front of banners -- All African Women's Group and Women of Colour in the Global Women's Strike.  A woman speaks on the microphone, her placard reads: LGBTQI+ asylum seekers need safety not detention.
Outside the Home Office building, an African woman folds a printed piece of pink paper, while another woman with her holds a finished origami boat made from the same letter, and in the foreground another boat is held up to the camera.
Folding the boats
DAY 4, Choose your future

The March to End Fossil Fuels

People in white overalls dressed up as ghost busters.  A man in overalls holds the Greenwash Busters banner, making fun of Carbon Capture and Storage claims.  They hold hoses up which are attached to their backpacks, and are dancing around.  Extinction Rebellion flags are attached above the green banner. A woman wheelchair user holds a placard with nuclear symbol crossed out, Nuclear power is not clean, green or safe!
We were thrilled to meet the Greenwash Busters from Bristol. They make fun of the fossil fuel companies’ claim to care about the environment, and claim that “carbon capture” enables them to carry on polluting. Our placard against nuclear energy as “clean, green and safe”, belonged with them. A sense of humour is very important!

We were at the Finale around Parliament, but the rain was torrential and we could not stay long!

The Big One was very encouraging and it was great to find out what so many people are doing.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: