Merlin Betts considers an Extinction Rebellion demonstration in Hastings town centre

On Saturday 29th June, Extinction Rebellion Hastings & St Leonards gathered in Hastings’ town centre by Caffè Nero. They explained “In the spirit of Waterloo Bridge, during the Spring International Rebellion, we aim to create a space in the centre of Hastings that is clear of traffic and filled with life”. Unlike Waterloo Bridge however, our local XR lobby had no desire to block roads or go limp in the arms of arresting officers. They set up stalls with a message of peaceful rebellion, and remained largely out of the way of the busy foot-traffic that’s common outside the town centre’s coffee shop triad on a Saturday. The nearby roads supported their usual array of passing vehicles.

In XR’s hamlet of stalls, a covered t-shirt printing table ran out several interesting designs in multiple colours. Clothes and books were available for free pick-up or exchange, and plants were handed out with tailored gardening advice. An area was also made available to hold and entertain participants’ children while the day’s rebellion reached fever pitch. There were even a selection of meditation tents and mats accompanied by a counsellor offering free 30min sessions to anyone interested.

The centrepiece was a selection of hay bales, decorative plants and so on where a speaker stood with a megaphone, giving lectures or singing songs, warning of impending doom and encouraging community cohesion.

Pic by Shendao Silent Films

I spoke to one of the event’s organisers, Zelly Restorick, about local XR’s aims and upcoming programme of events. Asked about their leadership structure, she said “People are free to form their own XR Affinity Group, united by a common goal or interest, so long as they adhere to Principles and Values. There’s no leader, everyone’s willingly and voluntarily giving their time and energy…my Affinity Group is EVOLution rEVOLution!”

Merlin Betts (left) – Zelly Restorick (right)

She highlighted the broader movement’s principles of non-violence and egalitarian self-organisation, then clarified “Restorative culture is very important. Everyone can contribute in some way, it’s not all about getting arrested, which seems to be a misunderstanding some people have. Everything is consciously non-violent and peaceful.” Finally Zelly wanted to emphasise “I’m not a spokesperson, just an involved rebel.”

Others have emphasised that civil disobedience can be vital in pushing the group’s sense of emergency. One member of their Facebook group recently suggested that they occupy a bus (get on without paying) for one stop’s duration and hand out leaflets to other passengers, demanding universal free travel at the point of delivery. Perhaps this sentiment was inspired by Aaron Bastani’s recent talk at St Mary in the Castle on his book “Fully Automated Luxury Communism”, which strongly supported the idea of free universal bus travel both as a powerful social service and a method of combating climate disaster.

Following the Saturday event, local XR hosted a talk on Wednesday 3rd July at Stade Hall, and they are planning a Pirate Rebellion on the 14th as well as a “Rebel Ride” on 20th July. A further talk in Hastings has been postponed, perhaps indefinitely, but a similar event “Heading For Extinction (and what to do about it)” will take place at the George in Rye on 15th July.

In terms of definite goals and motives, well, it’s clear that the group’s decentralised structure presently makes it difficult for them to share highly specific long term goals, but the Rebel Ride’s event page helpfully states “We’re rebelling against the 150 million pounds from local people’s pension fund pot that East Sussex County Council has recklessly invested in fossil fuels, and shouting out about frigging fracking.”

You can find Mima Bone’s coverage of local XR’s first protest here. You might also be interested in a piece on class involvement in green activism.

All pics by WHO Art and Design, except where mentioned.

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