A lot of British baby boomers got a lift this weekend as the police cleared Waterloo Bridge of the Extinction Rebellion supporters who occupied four important sites for the last week. It was all a very polite rebellion, mostly non-violent, demanding immediate action on climate change. (And if you want to learn more about the rebellion, we explain it over on TreeHugger.)
It was all very green, too:
There were people of all ages there, but also a surprising number of baby boomers and older people. In some ways, this was a strategy of the organizers, who instead of planning a fight with the police, consulted with them. As one senior police officer told The Guardian:
"These people are explicitly peaceful, they have liaised closely with us over their plans and have a legitimate cause. We all have a limit on what we think is the right level of action to take but I think everyone is worried about climate change."
One of the lead organizers, a boomerish Roger Hallam, told the BBC how this all might end:
"The police will go to government and say, 'We're not doing it anymore,'" says Mr Hallam. "They're not there to start arresting 84-year-old grannies or 10-year-old kids, there has to be a political solution."
It was all part of the plan to get arrested and carried off, as a way of getting publicity. They took lessons in how to lie down in a way that ensured they wouldn't get hurt when they got picked up, and to maximize the number of police needed. They even did role-playing exercises, learning how to deal with angry members of the public who want to drive over bridges and through Marble Arch. And they came from everywhere to support the movement. More from The Guardian:
Jane Forbes, an activist of pension age who spoke to the Guardian on the escalator leaving Oxford Circus station, said she and three friends, all of a similar age, had come to be arrested. "We’re the gruesome grannies," she joked, adding that she had come from the Marble Arch campsite specifically to be arrested.
The police in London were conspicuous because of the absence of their riot gear, originally all in yellow traffic jackets, then in vests, but rarely in helmets. Sometimes they were lying on the grass with the grannies, discussing current events. Surprisingly, the activists were able to keep Waterloo Bridge closed all week, and just started moving people out on Saturday, often with smiles on everyone's faces as they did it.
UPDATE: My message to all the climate change protestors today is clear: let London return to business as usual. pic.twitter.com/2o5jwbwLC2— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) April 21, 2019
By Sunday, the mayor of London was getting a bit testy about the whole thing and asked everyone to pick up their stuff and go home, and it appears most are doing so.
I suspect this would have played out differently in North America. Extinction Rebellion activists did close a street in front of City Hall in New York for a few hours, but the police there all had guns. People here who are angered by activists also often have guns. That's probably why the protesters in New York look young. But in the U.K., it seems that this revolution is has the support of people of all ages.
Boomers know how to protest
Like many others, I blame the baby boomers for most everything, and even agreed that many are sociopaths. But I'm coming to realize that it's really far more nuanced than that; there are climate denying jerks of all ages who care more about a few bucks on their giant truck's gas bill than they do about the survival of the planet. There are climate activists of all ages, demanding change now.
That's why I'm so thrilled to see so many "gruesome" grannies and balding boomers or silver-haired activists chaining themselves to bridges, taking part in the Extinction Rebellion. They are role models.
That's why I'm so excited about the rebellion itself, which has just three demands, all focused on the fact that something must be done, fast, with everybody involved. This is the way to get serious about Earth Day, by joining the Extinction Rebellion. They are working on a schedule that could make a difference in all our lives, not just those of our grandchildren.