The dust is settling on the XR October action in London and I think a period of reflection is now required. The numbers taking part in the occupations and the march were certainly higher than in April and on the whole the atmosphere was positive, supportive and determined. However the policing tactics had changed significantly and the authorities had decided not to allow the various sites to settle in and become established. The police approach was far more aggressive with many protesters singled out for ‘snatch’ arrests, including young people who had decided not to put themselves in a position to be arrested (I also took a rota’d role as a legal observer and was informed by a senior inspector, that these people were targeted in order to spread alarm among social media users). Perhaps the crackdown could have been anticipated but it certainly seemed harder to engage with the public and to convey the need for urgent political action by MPs against the backdrop of harassment.
Some actions – such as the 1000 tree sapling forest, 650 of which had MPs names on and were collected in many cases by the MPs themselves – lead to good conversations and a chance for outreach. Other actions, however, such as climbing on the tube train at Canning Town, prompted a lot of criticism and must surely lead to questions about aims and tactics. After a week at Millbank, Victoria Street, City Airport and the BBC I felt pretty drained and emotionally raw but still convinced that it is urgently necessary to add my voice to the escalating chorus demanding that we Act Now!