NOW WE RISE: COP 28 Rally & March

It was a dreary, dismal day on Saturday 9 December. The rain had been lashing down but abated somewhat as small groups started to come together outside the Civic Centre in Newcastle. This was the day when Climate Justice and Climate Action groups were coming together under the banner of the Climate Justice Coalition to rise up in disappointment and anger at the gathering of world leaders in the United Arab Emirates for COP28.

A crowd gathered before the makeshift stage. The Dead Canaries Samba Band brightened up this dull day with their rhythmic message. Speakers from Climate Action Newcastle, Fridays for Future, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Public and Commercial Services Union, Green Party, Say No to Hassockfield, XR Tyneside and North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll delivered rousing speeches to encourage and challenge, inspire and stimulate.

Helen from Tyneside XR spoke from the heart about her own experience of growing in confidence within Extinction Rebellion to the point where she now is serving a suspended sentence for taking part in a protest and will go to prison if arrested again. ‘I could never have imagined I would end up where I am now. I had no idea of what I was capable of‘ explained Helen. She went on to reassure listeners that this was her path and not necessarily theirs but urged them to find their tribe from among the groups assembled there and continue their activist journey in solidarity and unity with others.

Superhero capes and masks were spotted among the crowd. Helen explained that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they come together to share skills. ‘We do not need to be afraid. The Public Order Act has tried to make us feel scared and powerless. But together, we are not powerless…

We are here to rebel for truth. The system is broken.

We are here to sound the alarm. We’re heading for disaster.

We are here to model a sustainable way of living and being in community.

We are here to demand change.

We are here to unite to survive.’

CITIZENS ASSEMBLE: that was the empowering invitation that Extinction Rebellion brought to the event. Those gathered were invited to imagine if all the groups represented there on that day came together as a force for good, what a powerful force that would be. With Climate Justice Coalition, Tyneside XR is hosting a Climate Community Assembly on Saturday 27 January at the Star and Shadow Cinema, Newcastle.

We can do this.

The Dead Canaries struck up again as this movement of movements marched down Northumberland Street. Some good conversations were started with those curious to find out more. Brunswick Methodist Church opened its doors for tea and coffee and a selection of stalls to visit, including the XR stand where people could find out more about CITIZENS ASSEMBLE.

On this day in this place, we rose up. We spoke out. We responded with music and flags and banners and chants to the farce that is COP28. We were there.

And we will continue to act together. We will come together. We will work together.