The Brexit Opportunities Minister was blasted while the West of England mayor voiced his ‘respect’ for protesters.
Protests took place yesterday (June 11) in Keynsham as the town’s XR group joined with others from Bristol and Bath for an “Earth Emergency” day of action.
Around 100 protesters were led by a thirty two-piece samba band along Keynsham High Street where they performed a die-in and, in a visceral display, three people were “drowned” by having fake oil poured over their faces and mouths.
Speakers throughout the day included West of England metro mayor Dan Norris, XR co-founder Gail Bradbrook, Professor Colin Davis from the University of Bristol, Maggie Mason of Global Justice Now and Theo Simon from XR trade unionists group.
Bradbrook began by saying that it is hard to continue showing up to events like today’s given the often overwhelming torrent of bad news, but she said that climate campaigning doesn’t always have to be about misery, adding that: ‘The antidote to that is to enjoy ourselves.’
Whilst there are things to be miserable about, Bradbrook said: ‘There’s also joy, there’s humanity, there’s our love for each other, right? There’s music, there’s dancing, life wants to be lived. Live life together.’
Norris used his time behind the megaphone to call for the UK to show moral leadership on climate action and to “get its own house in order” before making demands of other nations to reduce their emissions.
The West of England mayor also criticised the greenwash of businesses like Bristol Airport, who he said were asking for ‘special treatment’ with their expansion plans, and called on those present to support the campaign against a planned biogas plant outside Keynsham, which was refused planning permission in April but is now being appealed by the owner.
Unlike many of Bristol’s politicians, Dan Norris is not afraid to show his face at protests. In February he spoke at a demo against Bristol Airport expansion on College Green.
Speaking to TBA during today’s march, Norris, whilst keen to draw a line between lawful and unlawful protest, said: ‘I would not be critical of anybody for getting involved or for getting active.’
He went on to say: ‘I have a great deal of respect for people who give time and effort for whatever they believe in, but particularly [the climate crisis] because I do believe it’s so important.’
Asked what people can do to create change, Norris replied that they should support politicians who are ‘doing the right thing by the environment.’
‘The politicians are our key, in many ways, to getting this sorted quickly. So I’d ask the public to be fair critics of politicians but to keep the pressure on because I believe the people are ahead of the politicians and all politicians need to be kept on their toes on something as important as the environment,’ he added.
Whilst not naming anyone specifically, Norris said the biggest barrier to greater political action is that ‘there are some people who, while saying the environment is important because they know it’s an issue the public cares about, in their heart don’t really believe it.
‘What they believe is that you can carry on increasing profits, increasing productivity and all those kinds of things, and actually you can’t, it’s not sustainable. It’s just the reality.’
The march began in Memorial Park at 11am before making its way through Keynsham High Street, stopping for around forty minutes for the various performances and further speeches by Bradbrook and Theo Simon.
There was a lot of colour and humour in the protest. Bim Mason’s Big Heads of Boris Johnson and Rees-Mogg made an appearance, providing amusement and photos opportunities for members of the public.
There were also poignant moments, such as the die-in, where the whole column lay down for five minutes as a solemn drumbeat was sounded.
The “drowning in oil” performance drew worried looks from passers-by. Three protesters dressed in hazmat suits took turns to pour fake oil (made from watered-down molasses) directly into the mouths of three other protesters who pretended to choke and splutter before falling to the ground.
The protest was partly inspired by comments made by Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is MP for Keynsham, in April this year.
Speaking on LBC, Mr Rees-Mogg said that it is the wish of the government to see ‘every last drop’ of oil extracted from the North Sea, despite warnings from scientists and campaigners that this would be disastrous for Britain’s climate goals.
Rees-Mogg said: ‘We want to get more oil out of the North Sea, we want to get more gas out of the North Sea.’ ‘We need to be thinking about extracting every last cubic inch of gas from the North Sea,’ he added.
The march ended near Bath Hill road a short distance from where it started and where food was served.
Did you go this protest? What did you think? Let us know in the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org.