Extinction Rebellion activist ‘falsely’ arrested in London explains why she attended controversial protests
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Kayleigh is part of the samba band in the Peterborough, Stamford and Bourne group of XR which travelled to the capital to create an atmosphere during the recent protests which saw hundreds of people arrested following a blockade of Lambeth Bridge.
The 34-year-old from Stamford was arrested by officers then later de-arrested after insisting that she had not taken part in any illegal activities.
However, she told the Peterborough Telegraph that she ‘admired’ those who did break the law, including those who prevented copies of national newspapers hitting the newsagents.
“I didn’t glue myself onto anything or spray chalk anywhere. But I was there to support those people - I have huge respect for people doing that,” she said.
“There are a lot in prison and I have huge respect for them making that sacrifice.”
Kayleigh spoke to the PT so people could understand more about why XR protesters take extreme measures to gain attention, and to explain that many activists like herself are just ordinary people who care passionately about combatting climate change.
She explained that despite nearly 200 countries signing the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit the global temperature increase this century by 1.5 degrees, there has already been a 1.1 degree rise with the fear that this could increase to four degrees with devastating consequences.
XR took part in 10 days of action at the start of this month, including outside the Brazilian Embassy in protest over the deforestation of the Amazon and outside the Shell headquarters over its use of fossil fuels.
Kayleigh was arrested on September 3 at Lambeth Bridge after the samba band had gone over to support others who had ‘locked on’ to the bridge.
She described the arrest as a “complete farce” and claimed she was actually prevented by police from leaving the road.
“We were not allowed to go. They held us for about an hour and a half. More and more police came up and arrested everyone: bystanders, press, first aiders. They arrested everyone on that bridge,” she said.
“An officer said I was arrested for blocking the highway and had been warned. I said I’d had no such warning and had tried to leave.”
Kayleigh was taken into police custody before being de-arrested and allowed to leave at 11pm. She then had to make her way across London to her accommodation with low battery on her phone.
“I should never have been arrested,” she said.
“The people who were locked on, I’m not disputing that. They wilfully blocked the road.
“But we wanted to leave and were stopped. It was not a nice experience.”
Kayleigh, who booked two weeks off work to join the action, protested outside government institutions and corporate organisations.
She explained: “We want to raise awareness of the crimes which are being committed on our planet by these institutions. They are a small number of hundreds across the world committing ecocide.
“People don’t understand it. It’s not officially recognised as a crime. Companies can clear forests, pollute, kill indigenous communities and it’s not recognised as a crime against nature.
“If groups are destroying the planet for corporate gain there should be punishment of that. We’re trying to raise awareness of what they are doing.”
Asked if the illegal actions carried out by many of the protesters were justified, Kayleigh responded: “I can’t see any alternative. I’ve signed countless petitions, sent letters to MPs, to corporations. I’ve tried all the ways I’ve been told to get our voices heard and call for change but it doesn’t work.
“You get to the point where you think ‘what’s the point?’ I still send letters to MPs and corporations. When I saw Extinction Rebellion and the pink boat last year in Oxford Circus I thought ‘this is it’.
“We need to fight back because the normal ways are not working.
“People are dying in heatwaves. We’re already seeing it and governments are not taking enough action. What they’re doing is not working.
“I feel helpless. I’ve got two younger siblings and I’m thinking ‘what future are we leaving them?’ It breaks my heart. I feel like this is the way I can help. Whether it works or not I’ve tried. I’ve got to hope it works because I can’t see any other way out of it.
“You look at mass change in the past: sick pay, women’s right to vote, the Civil Rights Movement. They weren’t won by people signing petitions. We’re not here to be liked, we’re here to make change. People don’t like the tactics but it is working.
“We don’t have 20 to 30 years to win. That will be too late.”
Peterborough nurse explains why she protested in London
Anna said: “The climate and ecological impact to our environment of the current emergency is having direct effects on our health right now and threatens to worsen over the coming years.”
She quoted research stating that 64,000 a people in the UK die each year from conditions related to air pollution, not too mention many more worldwide.
Explaining her involvement in the recent London protests, she said: “I worked with a group of doctors and nurses from across the UK to bring an action called ‘climate corpses’.
“The action focused on the health impacts of climate and ecological breakdown and presented over 50 ways you could die as a result of the climate and ecological emergency.
“We wanted to present a visual picture to Parliament of the mortality caused by climate breakdown and demonstrate this is not a problem which is happening sometime many years in the future.
“$here are health impacts now, here in the UK and across the world, which will continue to worsen unless the Government acts now to protect its citizens.
“This demonstration was peaceful and many people reported it was deeply moving.”
Anna also believes the HS2 project is a “travesty of ecological and social justice and should be stopped”.
For that reason she joined a group of protesters who threw fake blood over the Department of Transport and spray-painted ‘Smash HS2’ on the wall.
HS2 is set to link London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds by rail but could end up costing more than £100 billion after costs escalated.
Anna said the only way of preventing HS2 was to take direct action while claiming that it will take 120 years for the project to become carbon neutral.
“HS2 will cause damage to over 350 wildlife sites including ancient woodlands, river corridors and sites of special scientific interest,” she added.
“HS2 is taking lots of farmland at a time when we are aware that British soil fertility is under threat and significant areas of farmland are at risk of flooding from sea rise, including much of the East of England from the wash to Peterborough. There is a real risk that we will be unable to feed our population in a few years, at a time when globally harvests are also under threat due to the climate and ecological crisis.”
Noting the huge cost of the project, Anna added: “How can the Government justify spending such vast sums whilst neglecting the needs of its most vulnerable citizens?”