Yesterday morning, at around 11.20, I was arrested for the first time in my life. As far as I’m aware, no member of my family has ever been arrested before. It felt embarrassing, empowering, necessary.
I was arrested after taking part in a non-violent direct action on behalf of Writers Rebel. This involved the pavement outside the Institute of Economic Affairs and a dark liquid that was non-toxic, vegan, biodegradable. It was part of a wider Extinction Rebellion campaign to highlight the enablers of continued the expansion of fossil fuel production and consumption. (Yes, the guys.)
In the immediate aftermath of COP27’s complete failure, it felt good to act.
I’m fine today – if you were concerned. I was courteously treated, charged with Criminal Damage, held until just before midnight and released on bail. Natasha Walter, who was arrested too, is also fine.
A full explanation of the reason for our action is on the Writers Rebel website.
I am very aware this kind of thing (Down With This Sort of Thing) annoys a lot of people. Twitter today is making me even more aware. Lots of people don’t approve of these mess-making tactics. However, I have been employing many of those tactics these people do approve of (signing petitions, going on marches, raising awareness in my work) for the last three years with a great deal less impact than this one messy act.
Back when they started, it was what Extinction Rebellion conveyed of the urgency of the global situation that made me join them. (I am also a Green Party member.) As their Westminster Bridge banner said, ‘Climate Change – We’re Fucked’.
I have been thinking about whether to take part in a ‘spicy’ (arrestable) action ever since October 2019 – when I was one of the readers at the first Writers Rebel Marathon. (Yesterday, Natasha and I recited this same William Blake poem just after we finished pouring. Full circle.)
So this has been something I’ve considered from many angles for a long time. I’ve written about it for the London Magazine (not online). I’ve spoken about it when I had a platform – the need not just to write but to be physically present.
I think that’s what the writers of the past that I love the most, as a reader and a writer, would have us do. From radicals like Blake and Shelley to High Tories like Wordsworth.
Blake saw the dark satanic mills of the Industrial Revolution (other ways of referring to it available). He knew pollution and environmental degradation. But if he’d seen where we are today – floods, fires, heatwaves, insect deaths – he’d surely have lost it completely. He’d have asked how we got here. He’d have wanted to know what he could do to stop things getting worse.
This act was my small, fallible contribution to trying to stop things getting much worse.
Thank you for reading this.
Extinction Rebellion’s crowdfunder to support legal cases is here.