By Mima Bone

Saturday 18th May saw the first protest by the newly-formed Hastings and St Leonards Extinction Rebellion (XR) group. Around 150 people came together to take action to highlight the climate emergency we face on Earth. The event consisted of three ‘die-ins’, where participants met in pre-agreed public spaces and simultaneously lay down as if dead, forming a graphic visual reminder of the grave impact of climate change.

The XR rebels were of all ages, from Cassie, 5 months, to 91-year-old John, and were united by their commitment to sounding the alarm about the need for urgent action on climate change in order to prevent a sixth mass extinction on Earth.

PICTURE:  Shendao Silent Films

After an initial briefing on West Hill covering XR’s non-violent approach, demonstrators dispersed and met again in Butler’s Gap on George Street carrying colourful flags. During the die-in, the Declaration of Rebellion was read out in full. For many taking part it was an emotional experience. “I felt moved to be with other people who feel the same way as I do. With the sky above me and the ground below, I felt connected to this message and the urgency of our situation”, said one participant who had come with their baby.

The Declaration of Rebellion begins:
“We hold the following to be true:
This is our darkest hour.

Humanity finds itself embroiled in an event unprecedented in its history. One which, unless immediately addressed, will catapult us further into the destruction of all we hold dear: this nation, its peoples, our ecosystems and the future of generations to come.

The science is clear: we are in the sixth mass extinction event and we will face catastrophe if we do not act swiftly and robustly.”

This first local XR action was timed to share a ‘VOTE EARTH’ message in the community, ahead of the European elections on Thursday 23rd May. Without political affiliation, XR members urged passers-by to use their voice by voting with the protection of Earth as their first priority.

At Priory Meadow, the XR die-in presented an opportunity for pause in the busy town centre. Leaflets were handed out and many onlookers asked questions and engaged in discussions about the climate crisis, with some even choosing to join the protest. The sensitive presence of Hastings Police was also welcomed by activists who praised their supportive approach.

PICTURE:  Shendao Silent Films

Ending the action with a final ‘die-in’ on Hastings’ iconic pier, participants shared a picnic and reflected together. A group which had formed only 10 days previously, driven by a need to be active in response to the overwhelming weight of evidence of ecological crises, had achieved the beginnings of a powerful mobilisation: people coming together peacefully to demand change to avert catastrophe and protect the future.

The comments of those who participated echoed the closing words of the Declaration of Rebellion:

“We refuse to bequeath a dying planet to future generations by failing to act now.

We act in peace, with ferocious love of these lands in our hearts. We act on behalf of life.”

• For more information on meetings, events and actions you can check social media @XRHastingsStLeonards or sign up for the newsletter on www.xrhsl.org


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