Climate protesters from Extinction Rebellion (XR) have staged a “die-in” at the Square. The group were from XR’s University of East Anglia (UEA) and Norwich University of Arts (NUA) branch. UEA and NUA XR have written an open letter to UEA vice chancellor David Richardson as well as created a petition asking for him to declare a climate emergency.
Nearly 40 protestors assembled in the centre of the Square before they laid down, pretending to be dead, beside a banner that read “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief someone else will save it”. Additional protestors handed out flyers, asked onlookers to sign the petition and used a megaphone to highlight climate change facts. The protestors laying down then changed positions to form the shape of XR’s logo.
A spokesperson for the group said: “It seems absurd to us that UEA, which houses the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research – why are they not declaring a climate emergency?”
She added: “For a lot of people… to see their local institution or their university declaring a climate emergency would really cement the fact that this is a crisis.”
Claire Bilsborough is a second year LDC student who witnessed the protest. She thought it was a good idea, and was “interested to know what the result is and if the vice chancellor takes action”.
The group’s spokesperson said: “For us it’s an outreach opportunity to engage with people, see what people think about the situation, see what their fears and anxieties are and have a space to talk about it.”
She added: “This huge global societal crisis is going to affect us all”.
Stella Harrison was one of the protestors handing out flyers. She said: “I think it is a good thing we’re taking action in the uni. It’s nice to be promoting it to other students.”
But onlooker Kamran Uddin said: “It’s not the best way to express your message. It’s not pointless but people aren’t that interested.”
Rupert Read, a spokesperson for XR and an academic at UEA, also joined the “die-in”. Mr Read was a prominent figure on national media when XR staged eleven days of demonstrations in London earlier this year. During those demonstrations police arrested close to 1,200 people and the government said the demonstrations “caused disruption for many hundreds of thousands of hard-working Londoners”.
After the protest on campus a spokesperson for UEA said: “UEA detected and recognizes that there is a global climate crisis. We also feel there is a connected biodiversity emergency. Our preference would be to declare a “climate and biodiversity emergency”, which may help to appreciate their inter-relationships.”
The spokesperson added: “Declaring a climate and biodiversity emergency requires involvement, commitment, and doing different from all parts of the UEA.”
The spokesperson said: “Energy efficiency and reduction of carbon emissions are key priorities that are already factored into all building projects already. Likewise our programmes embed the principles of education for sustainable development”.