Why Extinction Rebellion Wales put the BBC on lockdown
Vicky Moller, XR Wales
The Welsh contingent of Extinction Rebellion put BBC Broadcasting House in London on lockdown at 8am Friday as staff arrived.
Over 1000 rebels poured into the courtyard and provided an alternative programme schedule, exploring topics ignored by the broadcasting corporation.
We were calling on the BBC to meet its crucial moral duty to tell the full truth about the climate and ecological emergency.
To date, the BBC’s reporting of the climate disaster has been woefully inadequate, failing in its public service duty to the British public and people around the world.
The protestors outside Broadcasting House wanted the reporting by the national broadcasting corporation to be proportionate to the urgency and scale of the climate crisis.
More specifically, the occupying protestors demanded that a senior director at the BBC come out and talk to us to film an interview about these issues.
We also wanted to ensure that our protest outside Broadcasting House was aired on the BBC News.
Eventually, a delegation was invited in to negotiate with two department heads and they agreed to a meeting with the director next week.
However, the protestors were underwhelmed by this offer and decided to offer their news to a rival, an not to leave BBC Broadcasting House.
The protesters also delivered a war time style emergency broadcast outside the Broadcasting House from 9.00 – 12.00 this morning
I arrived at 10am for a debate between farmers and vegans. It was well informed and the those discussing reached a level of accord, with quality of life for the animals being paramount
We also learned of the process by which carbon is sequestered in soils and how these land carbon sinks could be created.
I spoke about Wales and radical democracy. This protest itself, organised not by a leader but by a little circle of people while sitting outside government offices on Whitehall, was a sign of its effectiveness.
London’s institutions have resisted our message. The BBC has ignored this radical alternative to dysfunctional democracy and government, therefore, could not learn from what was occurring on its very doorstep.
Wales is further ahead. Extinction Rebellion has hosted two peoples assemblies in our Senedd. Half the councils in Wales have declared a climate emergency, and all were willing to come to the Senedd at the invitation of Extinction Rebellion to discuss our progress and plans.
We had human stories too, interspersed with song, instruments and songs including Calon Lân and a Welsh lesson. The teacher went around testing people a bit later!
The personal testimones were the most memorable. They included a ‘recovering capitalist’ – a CEO whose life had been dedicated to making money because he thought it was the route to happiness. It only made him miserable.
A person who had attempted suicide spoke of how he had found the meaning he lacked in XR.
A lawyer and several doctors spoke, including a GP who was shaking with emotion having just been released from custody. He had never dreamed he would be a criminal.
A retired MET police officer evoked the biggest cheer. He was also willing to become a criminal.
Several people who had come from Wales out of love for not just their grand-children but nature, and a very Welsh speaking portly smart gentlemen who made us all laugh at his sheer astonishment at the fun of being a rebel.
Years ago I was on a similar occupation in Pembrokeshire Park Authority carpark. There the police chief pressured the director of the institution to meet us in return for us taking down the tents and going home. He was angry but did not feel he could refuse the police chief. After an hour’s meeting and agreements noted, we all went home in time for tea.
After 12 hours of BBC occupation, many who had planned and taken the site were longing to go home. Just at this point, we heard chanting and bands heralding the arrival of a troop of Kurds, flags waving, spirits incensed at the invasion of their land in Syrian that day.
Their explosive fresh energy lasted far into the night. The police were rocking on their feet with weariness after their repeated 12 hour shifts. They could not sit down or sing, even amazing grace.
I had told their chief of the way it was handled in Wales, but he was under orders and therefore impervious to sensible suggestions.
An example of small group creativity was the moment a speech was interrupted by the usual cry ‘ Mic check’. Everyone’s attention was drawn to a group hug happening against a wall of the building.
A laugh of anticlimax was cut short when the group hug turned into a two tier climbing frame for two men to mount onto the roof. Who needs ladders? They raised flags and cheers and dismayed the BBC who feared being sued if they fell on the crowd through the plastic roof.
A rival TV channel, ITN turned up to film and interview our spokesperson, to the background sounds of Amazing Grace.
Nobody by now feels confident we can save life on earth from climate devastation, but the Welsh led crowd in London showed that with some will and creativity there is still hope.