This post comes after attending my first Extinction Rebellion protest. This was a non-violent occupation of five major cities across the UK. The aim? For protestors to grab the attention of our government and demand they #actnow in response to the climate crisis.
I just want to say that this post is aimed as non-violent protestors. If you’re thinking of attending a “smash all the windows with Molotov cocktails” kind of deal, you’re on your own. Mainly because I’ve not attended that kind of protest and wouldn’t know where to start.
I’ve also included a bonus packing list of essentials for the first-time protestor.
When I signed up for the Summer Uprising, I opted to attend as a non-arrestable protestor. This means I wouldn’t be willing to risk arrest. Many people opted to take the same approach for a multitude of reasons. I actually overheard one protestor saying “it would really fuck my life up [should I get arrested]”.
For me, it would put significant barriers in my life to have a criminal record. Especially post-graduation when wanting to enter a career in health. I knew what my limits were going into the protest, and I was able to act accordingly.
This also applies to figuring out if protesting is right for you. It’s not easy and at times you feel incredibly vulnerable, it’s not for everyone.
If you’re able to, take a friend along with you. Particularly if you’re a little on the nervous side like myself. I went to the Cardiff Summer Uprising by myself but ideally would’ve gone along with a friend or two.
But also be open to making new friends! Based on my own experience, fellow protestors are more than happy to chat. The sense of community I experienced within Extinction Rebellion was unmatched – I’ve never experienced anything quite like it.
Despite not being willing to get arrested, I took some emergency phone numbers along with me just in case. If my phone died unexpectedly and I needed help for whatever reason, I had the numbers of my parents and my siblings to hand. I wrote mine down on a piece of scrap paper, but other activists wrote them on their bodies in permanent marker.
While the atmosphere between activists can be fairly relaxed and friendly, it’s not the same for everyone. I’ve experienced a lot of shouting and verbal abuse from members of the public. I mentioned it briefly in an Instagram post – being labelled a “cunt”, “arsehole”, “jobless loser” etc. Simply for attending a protest.
When attending a protest of this nature and disrupting the daily lives of the public, it’s expected that people won’t be happy with you. Try not to take it to heart. While I understood why there was a certain level of anger, I didn’t agree with the way people were expressing it towards individuals.
I’ve got to say, when I planned my trip to the Summer Uprising the idea of snacks didn’t really cross my mind. But realistically, you have to stay hydrated and nourished. Protests are hard going on the mind and body, so taking care of yourself should be prioritised.
Luckily for me, XR had a makeshift kitchen set up on City Hall lawns where meals were provided for free, three times a day. But I understand this isn’t available at all protests, so make sure to bring along some easy-to-carry snacks and a refillable water bottle.
Portable phone charger. This is one of my own tips I’ve ignored. Not for any reason other than I don’t own a portable charger. But I brought along my phone charger and popped into local cafés to charge my phone.
Sleeping bag & tent. Obviously this doesn’t apply to all forms of protests. Look online to see if the one you’d like to attend is planning an overnight camp-out at specific locations before getting your camping gear at the ready!
Snacks & refillable water bottle.
Warm jumper and/or lightweight raincoat. You’ve got to be prepared for all weather conditions, so chuck a jumper in your bag for the cold nights and a raincoat to avoid the showers.
Sun protection. This is something I didn’t give much thought to, and I’ve got the sore skin to show for it!
I never considered myself an activist. It didn’t seem like a term that I resonated with. But then I referred to the definition; “an especially active, vigorous advocate of a cause, especially a political cause”. It made me realise that maybe I was more of an activist than I originally thought.
What I didn’t relate to was the idea of who I thought an activist was. But an activist can be you, me, your mum, sister, or your next door neighbour. There’s no one specific look or personality to an activist or protestor. You can embody your own identity but still stand behind and be supportive of particular causes.
Hopefully more people will be open to the idea of considering themselves an activist, just like I have. Explore your passions and stand up for what you believe in!
I'm Elen Mai, the brains behind Welsh Wanderer and 20-something human biology student from (you guessed it) Wales! Welsh Wanderer is designed with the eco-conscious adventurer in mind. So stick around for tips & tricks on living sustainably.