Finally, I finally got to go to my very first protest. After lockdowns, covid risks, train strikes, bad timings, and more train strikes, I found a protest march that was possible to attend and it just happened to be The Big One! A 4 day long (peaceful) protest held by Extinction Rebellion with other amazing organisations such as Greenpeace, Friends of The Earth, Parents For Future, Fossil Free London and so many more all coming together to demand change and action on climate change and environmental issues from our Government. I went along on the Saturday with my 5-year-old to march for Biodiversity and this is how we prepared for that and how we got on at our first protest.
Preparing For a Protest
All protests will of course be different but this one being family-friendly and peaceful was quite easy to prepare for. Extinction Rebellion Families were great at providing an insight into what would be on – games, face painting, activities, singing etc. – as well as giving some suggestions on what to bring along.
Things I Checked:
- Timings of the day
- Time of the march and how long it would be
- List of suggested items from organisers
- Train times
- How easy it would all be on my own with a child
- Ideas for placards
- Who else may be going (for a bit of help/support/socialising)
Things I took:
- Large backpack
- Packed lunch (reusable sandwich bags of course!)
- Reusable tea cup
- 2 Reusable water bottles
- Lots of snacks
- Money (cash and card)
- Paracetamol (just in case)
- Wild deodorant (didn’t wanna get stinky!)
- Change of clothes for my child (just in case)
- Reusable baby wipes
Things I Wish I’d Taken
- Suncream – the list did say to take it but the weather had said rain in the afternoon… I shouldn’t have paid attention because the sun did come out
- Sun hat and sunglasses (as above)
- Another water bottle (I didn’t get time to fill up before heading home and we could have done with another for the train)
- Rug/blanket for sitting on at lunch (I sat on the wet bag!)
Attending a protest in London is fairly easy to access for most people, isn’t it? The event was at Parliament Square so all we needed to do was take a train up to Waterloo and walk to the hubs. And of course, taking a train is also the most environmentally friendly choice.
On arrival we could clearly see the welcome signage and headed straight for the Extinction Rebellion Hub where friendly volunteers told us about the events and other hubs and pointed us in the right direction for the family one. We picked up some stickers and badges and made a donation towards the cause.
Was buzzing! I was so excited all week in the run-up to the protest and the atmosphere did not disappoint, it was all I imagined it would be. Lots of smiling faces, lots of people happy to talk to you, joyous music, inspiring talks, environmental groups to join/support, passion and a huge like-minded community. It can be hard to be “that eco person” in normal everyday situations so attending a protest like this was a break from feeling like the oddball and instead I could just be me, surrounded by others who think and care about the environment in the same way. I think this is why the atmosphere was just so amazing; we all felt the same.
The March began at 1 pm with speakers on the main stage which I unfortunately couldn’t see or hear due to the vast numbers in the crowds. I don’t think Extinction Rebellion had anticipated The Big One being THIS big which is obviously great for proving how many of us want climate action but it was a huge shame that we couldn’t hear from some of the leading voices such as Chris Packham on this topic. I hope in future they will think about using more speakers and screens in order to reach all of those who attend.
Due to the number of people the march did take a little longer than expected to get going but that did give us all a chance to listen to the drummers, grab snacks and drinks and also find toilets (this was tricky as no portaloos were provided and some local shops/cafes refused even children to use theirs).
Once the march did begin it was slow and peaceful and full of chants and cheers, conversations and smiles. I feel we so often hear the word protest and many people associate them with negative connotations – anger, force, fights, disruption – but this certainly isn’t always the case and Extinction Rebellion wants to move away from its previous tactics and move forward with peaceful protests just like this one.
Again, the atmosphere was amazing and being a part of this movement just filled me with even more drive to do as much as I can for our environment.
The Die In
Once the march reached back around to The Houses of Parliament we were invited to stage a “die in” to further push our message across. Everybody laid down on the floor in silence for 5 minutes and even though there was no sound you got this enormous sense of unity.
I later heard that the march was so big that the front almost came around to touch the end! It was estimated that there were around 60,000 people there but that number has since been revised to 100,000. How amazing is that? What a statement.
Peaceful to the End
After the march and die in were finished people dispersed. Some went back to the stalls/hubs, some talked with others, some headed home and some, like us, walked to nearby St. James’ Park to grab a cuppa or ice cream. As me and William wandered through all we saw were groups of people coming together to reflect on the day, no trouble anywhere. We popped into the play area and other families had done the same. As we walked back to the station, there was still some action being taken but nothing aggressive, it was still completely peaceful and passionate. I didn’t once see any police taking action that day.
Bring on The Next One!
I think I chose my first protest pretty well and I am still buzzing from the day as I know others are too. My son had a great time joining in and did amazingly well with all of the walking, the hustle and bustle and even the loud noises. If you ever want to join a protest that is child-friendly then The Big One is the one for you. I cannot wait for the next!
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