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Monday morning rush hour shackled as XR 'swarm' closes key Cambridge junction

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XR swarming brings chaos to Cambridge. Picture: Mike Scialom
XR swarming brings chaos to Cambridge. Picture: Mike Scialom

Extinction Rebellion - XR - Cambridge's Swarming Action shut one of Cambridge's main junction during an hour-long protest at rush hour this morning.

A small group of activists gathered in front of Our Lady and the English Martyrs Church at the junction of Hills Road and Lensfield Road at 7.45am on Earth Overshoot Day "to keep the urgency of the climate crisis in the public eye". Earth Overshoot Day calculates the "allowance" of natural resources such as water, soil and clean air. The 2019 budget has already been used up.

The XR action was the first since the city was officially the hottest place in the country for one day last week, with the temperature exceeds 100 degrees - only the second time the UK has experienced a100-degree reading. The previous occasion was in 2003, when 35,000 died across Europe in an intense heat wave.

The event was not without controversy. The number of drivers honking their horns created a huge backswell of noise as the protestors blocked off the top of Hills Road, as you can hear from today's Cambridge Independent Facebook Live broadcast from the scene.

One member of the public scuffled with protestors before leaving the scene shouting: "Stop ****ing ruining everyone's day".

One driver seemed to be trying to drive around the blockade and was alleged to be abusive to a protestor.

"The driver was late for an appointment at Addenbrooke's," Jane said later. "She was very angry at us. She said: 'I hope you all die'."

The swarming activity was generally treated good-naturedly however, and it probably helped that the traffic was halted for only two minutes, with seven-minute gaps, over a period of one hour, until about 10am.

Cambridge resident Mary Laven said: "There have been quite a few XR swarms but this was my first one. It was good. I was talking to people on Lensfield Road and they were mostly accepting of our action and they understood the need to de-escalate our use of fossil fuels to avoid further rises in global temperatures."

"When people realise what this is for they mostly say 'OK, this is fine', though there are one or two exceptions," said Mary's colleague, Julie, who declined to reveal her surname "because my head teacher may not be too pleased".

While the blockade was in operation Jason Scott-Warren broadcast to the public using a megaphone, urging people to appreciate that the real crisis facing this country "isn't Brexit, it's climate change".

Commenting on the action later, Jason told the Cambridge Independent: "I think that we all know that people will be provoked by our actions; some will be very angry while others are strongly supportive. We do these actions to make sure that the climate crisis crosses people’s minds as often as possible, and if we get a hostile reaction, that is understandable. Some people are very invested in the current system and can’t imagine how it could be changed to deal with the emergency. Other people are too oppressed by the current system to believe that a better world is possible. Business as usual should not be an option but sadly it is the current default. We are still in denial.

"To my mind any action that reminds people that global warming is having lethal effects around the world, and that we are actively choosing the darkest of futures, is a success. This was a small action but we hope to do more of them in the run-up to the general strike in September and the international rebellion in October."

The worldwide Extinction Rebellion campaign - motto "Rebel for life" - began last October, and uses civil disobedience and non-violent action to protest against climate breakdown, biodiversity loss, and the risk of social and ecological collapse.

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