- Created: Friday, 05 July 2019 11:41
- Written by Newcastle Branch
On Wednesday 26 June, supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! worked with Extinction Rebellion North East (XR) to lead a march and protest to a full meeting of the Labour-led council in Newcastle. The council declared a climate emergency in April this year and committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030 – more hot air from a council that promises the earth but slashes public services and does nothing to defend working class communities.
In an XR meeting, we successfully argued for the need to keep the pressure up on the council and that the demands should be about local issues that are connected to the international situation. At this protest we demanded the council refuse planning permission for a new open cast mine proposed in the west end of Newcastle. The notorious Banks mining company responsible for decimating Pont Valley near Consett plans to extract 800,000 tonnes of coal from the site. If all this coal is burned it will emit roughly 2,075,638 tonnes of CO2. Whether or not this coal is burned in Newcastle and affects the official emissions data here does not matter – this will be a violation of the commitment to carbon neutrality.
The council has also accepted £65m of ‘investment’ from Legal & General, Britain’s first trillion-pound investment fund, one of the major shareholders behind BHP Billiton. BHP is a British multinational mining firm and the biggest in the world. They are responsible for the destruction of environments and communities across Latin America. Legal & General profit from these murderous operations while at the same time promising to invest hundreds of millions more in Newcastle. We stated that we will not allow investment and growth in the business sector of Newcastle to be at the expense of communities in the north east and Latin America. There are people who are being attracted to XR who support anti-imperialist politics.
Over 70 people joined the protest from lots of different organisations. We were there on the day with a Cuban flag and placards explaining that capitalism is extinction and socialism is survival. We spoke about these issues on the megaphone and ensured there was an open mic which lots of people took up. Some people on the protest opposed us flying the Cuban flag as they feared XR would be associated with this. The real problem is that Cuba is not associated with the environmental movement in Britain and across Europe. Cuba needs to be front and centre of this struggle because it is recgonised by the UN and World Wide Fund for Nature as the only country with very high human development within the carrying capacity of Earth's ecosystem. This is a fact that cannot be argued against and is only possible because Cuba is socialist. Most people were open to what we had to say.
One of the XR organisers passionately addressed the council, and we packed out the public gallery so they knew we were watching. The council ignored our demands but said they will convene a Climate Change Convention in September – through which they seek to lobby the government. We’ve seen this buck-passing before and will not stand for it anymore. A group of us will be attending the councillor surgery of Nick Kemp – Labour cabinet member responsible for the environment, asking him why the council has done nothing to reduce carbon emissions since they declared a climate emergency three months ago. We will be demanding concrete action is taken immediately to halt the climate crisis in Newcastle – one of the most polluted cities in the country.
We will be keeping up the pressure on the council and have made it clear that we will bring the city to standstill if the council gives the go ahead for an open cast coal mine here. We want deeds not words!
From Dewley Hill to Peru – No blood for fossil fuels!