New Documentary Follows The Extinction Rebellion Protests That Shut Down London

London came to a standstill as the ravages of the climate crisis continue


4 Minutes Read

Activists fixed a pink boat named after murdered Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres in the middle of the busy intersection of Oxford Street and Regent Street Activists hold a pink boat in the middle of the intersection of Oxford Street and Regent Street - Media Credit: Antonio Pagano / Alamy Stock Photo

Demand Film has announced the release of its new Extinction Rebellion (XR) documentary: Conscientious Protectors: A Story Of Rebellion Against Extinction

The film follows XR’s founders as they rally activists for the largest nonviolent civil disobedience event this generation has seen. It offers an insight into what it takes to bring thousands of people together in a powerful protest. It also features interviews with key figures from the organization. 

From the planning stage to claiming London’s streets, the film invites viewers to understand the motivation that led to the UK capital being held to ransom in April 2019.

For 10 days, an estimated 10-15,000 protesters blocked landmarks like Marble Arch. This resulted in the arrests of more than 1,500 people. More than 9,000 police officers responded to protest sites, costing more than £16 million.

Telling the truth about the climate emergency

XR says it chose to ditch hope as a popular message when discussing the climate crisis, in favor of facts. Particularly, the government’s role in the worsening situation. After following the science for years and witnessing little action, XR deemed civil reaction on a large scale essential.

“People are always encouraged to exert their choice as consumers to make an impact on the climate emergency,” a spokesperson for XR told Plant Based News (PBN). “Actually, we need to use our power as citizens.”

Director Leigh Bloomfield said in a statement: “With exclusive access to the Extinction Rebellion movement, this fly-on-the-wall documentary tells their story. This monumental feat took months and months of planning. And we followed the key co-founders of XR, Roger Hallam, Gail Bradbrook, Clare Farrell, Stuart Basden, and Larch Maxey through the planning and onto the streets.

“This film delves into the inner workings of XR’s decision-making. Their methods, their stresses, and strains, as they took hold of five sites in London during the April 15 rebellion.”

‘This is a rebellion, not a rally’

Conscientious Protectors opens with scenes of activists being arrested. Shortly afterward, XR co-founder Stuart Basden addresses the camera, flanked by impassioned rebels.

“This is a rebellion, not a rally, it is a rebellion. We are here to get our demands met,” he says.

From here, the film steps back in time to trace the roots of what would become XR. One of the most notorious climate activism groups in the world, XR began as Rising Up! The grassroots protest collective began in 2016.

What started as a small group of activists, led by Hallam and Bradbrook, grew into an organization powerful enough to bring London to a standstill. 

‘Arrestables,’ boats, and the paradox of organizing a rebellion

The film shows the challenging logistics of instigating a multiple-location rebellion in London. As an on-screen ticker periodically reveals growing numbers of confirmed supporters, the enormity of the endeavor begins to unfold onscreen. 

Campaign centers filled with whiteboards are shown alongside endless Zoom meetings. Big wins, such as a boat donation, are celebrated. Meanwhile, taking responsibility for the risk of the arrest of all activists is solemnly discussed. 

Legal advisors offer warnings about the impact on young protestors’ futures. The XR team is told to make all participants aware of the risks at hand. 

The execution of powerful civil disobedience

The footage used in the film is powerful and emotive. It shows police arresting activists of all ages and sites eventually being cleared. XR’s founders are always in the throng, including Farrell.

“Watching this period of rebellion documented has reminded me of the emotion, the grief, and the beauty our amazing rebels brought to the streets to raise the public and political awareness of the truth of these times,” Farrell exclusively told PBN

She added: “I feel so lucky to have been part of something that created a moment of whirlwind along with the underlying message that the best response to our era of crisis will be a compassionate one.”

Following the April 2019 rebellion, the UK government agreed to a meeting with XR. On May 1 2019, it declared a climate emergency.

Despite measures to prevent future protests in the capital, XR says that London was just the beginning. The organization has grown to 485 cities, across 75 countries. It has also announced another rebellion due to take place in the UK capital, this September. 

Conscientious Protectors: A Story Of Rebellion Against Extinction will screen in select UK cinemas from July 25, but only if minimum sale thresholds are met. 

You can buy tickets here.

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