XR Bath at Free The Press

Rebels from XR Bath headed to London to Protest lies about the ecological emergency by national newspapers.

On Sunday the 27th of June Extinction Rebellion protested on the streets of London to “Free the Press”. The message behind the action was to inform the public that four media tycoons are controlling our national newspapers and that the majority of newspapers continuously fail to raise the alarm and tell the truth about the climate emergency. Extinction Rebellion hopes to encourage a free and fair democracy where all citizens are informed of the truth to prepare decision-making in elections, lifestyle and contribution to society. Currently, the freedom within our democracy is undermined due to the lies, scapegoats and propaganda that billionaires use to divide the public and gain wealth. Independent and unbiased media is necessary for a true democracy that the climate crisis effectively.

XR Bath Rebel describes his experience of the protests:

“For weeks a team in London had been secretly sculpting giant paper mache heads in the likeness of the press owners, Murdoch, Rothermere, Barclay and Lebedev.  Two days before their intended use Police raids on the studios saw arrests and confiscation.  A lorry load of banners and protest material was removed including very incriminating pink wheelbarrows.  Fortunately, the heads were left behind.  There followed a day of uncertainty.  Did the Police have the studios under surveillance?  Would anyone trying to retrieve the heads get arrested?  Eventually, some brave rebels hired a van and got the heads to safety ready for the next day’s events.

The plan was for these heads to be carried at the front of the ‘Free the Press’ march from Parliament Square to News Corp offices were their carriers would get arrested for criminal damage with spray paint.  The desired result was memorable images of the billionaire press barons being arrested.

The public’s response to these giant effigies was always enthusiastic. Even at our rendezvous point when the Police were present an old resident admired them and said they should be in a museum.  During the march families came out onto balconies to wave.  Together with the coloured smoke and beat of a mega samba band the whole day had a carnival feel.

Actions usually hinge on great teamwork and this was no exception.  Each arrestable head carrier had a support team of two.  This allowed the load to be shared during the march as carrying was an effort.  Nearing the end we arrestables made sure we were in our harnesses doing the carrying.  Throughout it was a team event and I felt honoured by the trust that the artists, designers, drivers, coordinators and physical helpers placed in me.

At the Shard Building where News Corp has its offices, the Police had set up a cordon.  Amongst the speeches, chants and blasts of samba, there was a secret signal for the arrestables to start our truth-telling paintwork.  During the march, we had discretely been given spray cans and stencils so we began in earnest immediately the signal was heard.  Whenever I looked up I could see approving smiling faces.  Rather than arrest us immediately, the Police sent in a video team to gather evidence.  As the measure of this action was mainly images of press barons getting arrested we had to work harder for that to happen publicly. 

Not surprisingly protests about press coverage tend not to get good coverage.  I feel sure this ‘Free the Press’ weekend touched many people who saw it.  The impact of actions goes beyond the moment of arrest.  Over the hours that followed I had gentle and fruitful conversations with arresting officers, custody Sergeants and other Police staff and if I get charged such conversations extend to the courts”.

About 10 rebels attended from XR Bath, six of which were involved in the samba band. Paul, an XR Rebel who attended the action, reported that “an important insight was just how many people care that our press is controlling and manipulating the rest of the media and public”. He also expressed surprise at how “unintended parts of an action get best picked up on social media” such as “the video of police carrying wheelbarrows of horse manure around that had been dumped on the road”.

The struggle for a ‘Free Press’ continues.  Acres of nonsense occupy the front pages supplanting real journalism about the planetary breakdown.  It’s an ongoing campaign taking widely different forms.  In contrast to our carnival-like protest, Rev Tim Hewes of Christian Climate Action sewed his lips together outside News Corp today in a very visceral witness to their silence.  There is also the ongoing inspiration from Liverpool’s 30-year boycott of the Sun. You won’t find anyone in the city buying, selling or reading it. 

The fight for true democracy and information continues. Rebels continue striving daily to provide the public with the information they need. If you’d like to join the battle, please get in touch by visiting the Contact Us page or emailing hello@xrbath.org.uk or welcome.bathxr@protonmail.com.