The last 30 days have been an emotional journey for all of us. We have experienced sacrifice, pain, unity, joy, frustration, fatigue, elation and heart-bursting love. We have been to Madrid and back, faced arrest and physical injury, made powerful works of art and welcomed countless new rebels to the fight for our future – somehow all while juggling our lives, families, jobs and commitments.
After such a period of intense action, it’s crucial that we take time to rest, reflect and recharge. So, sit back, put your feet up, and take a look at some of the incredible things we’ve achieved in the last month, and what things are still to come…
On the morning of October 7th, more than 100 rebels from Barcelona and hundreds more from different corners of Spain were walking through the dark, hushed streets of a still sleeping Madrid. Scattered across the city the night before, now we were moving into position and waiting for our signal, the sound of Martí Sole’s 7O Nation Army still in our heads.
The International Rebellion had begun.
The action started at Madrid’s Nuevos Ministerios bridge, where 300 rebels chained a boat to the bridge’s centre and formed a human blockade around it. At the same time, hundreds more rebels set up a camp outside the Ministry for Ecological Transition, complete with colourful banners and flags, tents, a kitchen, a care station and eco-toilets.
On the bridge, the police arrived almost instantly and started dismantling the blockade. Nonviolent resistance was met in many cases with excessive force, with some police officers pressing thumbs into rebels’ eyes, pushing hard on pressure points around their necks and jaws, and twisting their wrists and arms. At approximately 10:30am, the police moved the press away from the bridge. By the time the action was over, 40 rebels had been taken to the police station for identification, 3 had been arrested, and 10 were on their way to hospital to receive medical treatment for their injuries.
At the Ministry, XR Barcelona’s Blue Brigade joined Red and Brown brigades from other parts of Spain to put on a performance about mass extinction. Representing floods, fires and desertification, the brigades pursued rebels dressed as animals towards the ministry gates, where the performers staged a die-in, followed by a rousing rendition of Somos la Rebelión (We are the rebellion). The scene then fell quiet, as one rebel stepped forward to read the Declaration of Rebellion, full of raw emotion.
The remainder of the first day was spent establishing the dynamics of the camp and the strategy going forward, including whether to meet with Teresa Ribera, the Minister for Ecological Transition, and under what conditions. Finally, as night fell, rebels congregated on the lawn for the first of several concerts that would take place over the coming days.
The camp remained outside the ministry gates until Friday October 11th, despite warnings from the Mayor of Madrid that the pines on the lawn were a safety hazard (prompting an ever-creative response from rebels in the form of a satirical song, “Los Pinos Asesinos” (The Killer Pines)). During the week, the lawn flourished with activity including talks on the climate crisis, yoga classes, theatre performances, jam sessions, concerts, and workshops on everything from slacklining to sign language. The meeting with Teresa Ribera took place on the Thursday, while the rebellion spread out into the city, with rebels from XR Barcelona joining others in a performance in front of the National Museum of Natural Sciences and in chaining themselves to the gates of El Retiro park.
As one rebel made clear in this beautifully written reflection, what we experienced in Madrid, collectively and individually, was unforgettable. As for the effect it had, we can only look outside ourselves: to the new rebels who joined Extinction Rebellion that week on the lawn outside the Ministry, or to the passers-by who saw in us the fight for life that they had been waiting for. If we succeeded in anything, it was in showing them that change is possible, if only you believe in the power of ordinary people.
The importance of regenerative culture – the practice of nurturing a culture of resilience and love that enables rebels to keep participating in Extinction Rebellion without burning out – is becoming more evident every day. And what better time to set up a Regenerative Culture commission than after a week of action in Madrid?
XR Barcelona’s newly formed Regenerative Culture commission aims to instill regenerative practices into everything we do, ensuring that we all feel connected and supported within the movement. One of the commission’s first initiatives is free Friday yoga sessions open to all rebels. Look out for times, locations and how to sign up on the group chat!
As XR Barcelona grows, it’s essential that we continue to organize ourselves effectively, sociocratically and democratically. Over the coming weeks, each of XR Barcelona’s commissions will define its responsibilities and the roles that individual rebels can take on within it, with the aim of encouraging decentralized decision-making and easy integration into the movement. Once defined and filled, these roles will then rotate on a regular basis, promoting sustainability, skill sharing and learning, and mitigating the accumulation of power.
If you would like to take on a specific role or be part of the restructuring process, speak to the rest of your commission about how to get involved!
On October 26th and 27th, XR Barcelona took part in the Fira d’Economia Solidària, an event visited by thousands of people each year and centred around how to build a fairer economy. Rebels from XR Barcelona participated in a round-table discussion aimed at raising awareness of the urgency of the climate and ecological emergency and discussing alternatives to the capitalist-individualist economy. In addition, we collaborated with other Barcelona-based climate movements to put on a performance and run an information stand.
On November 3rd, XR Barcelona held its first welcome meeting in English for international rebels living in Barcelona. 65 people from countries including Poland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Ireland, Germany and Italy attended the welcome meeting, and many of them can’t wait to get involved in the rebellion. Welcome to the family, rebels!
The welcome meeting was organized by a new commission, XR BCN International, whose objective is to help international rebels who don’t yet feel comfortable speaking in Catalan or Spanish to join XR Barcelona and find their place within the movement. XR BCN International will be working closely with other commissions to help integrate the international rebels, as well as providing training sessions, talks and action support in English. If you’d like to help out, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Training is fundamental to Extinction Rebellion, from learning the basics of nonviolent direct action to taking care with regards to cybersecurity. On Saturday November 9th, XR Barcelona rebels have another chance to take part in a training day – this time, followed by dinner and a concert! If you’d like to meet your fellow rebels and learn about self-organization, regenerative culture, how to facilitate sharing circles and more, this is the perfect opportunity.
It’s official: the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference (COP25) will be taking place in Madrid from December 2nd – 13th. Greta Thunberg is looking for sustainable transport to take her back across the ocean to be there, and no doubt thousands of rebels from all over Europe are planning to make the journey to the Spanish capital to make their voices heard. Will we join them as XR Barcelona, or rebel from home? It’s up to us to decide…
That’s it for this edition of the XR Barcelona newsletter. Once again, thank you to all the rebels out there for the energy and love that you give, and the inspiring commitment with which you give it. Rest, regenerate, and keep coming back – the world needs you.
See you on the streets.
Love and rage,