Although everyone I had met so far had been lovely, I was still slightly nervous. A small part of me wanted to hibernate in my tent on my own. The stronger part of me wanted to act as a journalist, to neutrally move through the movement observing and writing about it. I still have much to practise before I call myself a journalist… but a good starting point was definitely putting myself there at this event and attempting to write about it.
So I decided, instead of hiding in my tent, I would go to the induction and get started. This post will be about my first evening; the characters I met, the inspiration we felt, the mezze we shared and the night of little sleep but plenty shivering.
The inductions took place 4 or 5 times a day and each one brought dozens of new joiners. They were led by co-founder Roger Hallam. There was a fantastic mix of radicals with the logos painted onto their bodies, business men in suits and everything in between.
We were split up into two groups of roughly 10 people- ‘The Arrestables’ and ‘Non-Arrestables’. These were our infinity groups. We were organised in this way so we could each participate in a manner that suited us. We were all taught how to safely get arrested, that the police have to give a certain number of warnings before they can arrest and how we can reach that limit and then walk away. They explained to us what to say and how to act once we have been arrested to avoid getting charged.
As exciting as this all sounded to me, I don’t have time in my life to deal with the possible pending charges so I opted to join the Non-Arrestables.
At this point the protest had reached 700 arrests. 700 arrests and more and more people lining up to learn how to get arrested.
The dinner I had was not what I expected when I set out on my journey. I pictured myself eating apples and cereal bars for two days. Instead I went out for my first ever Lebanese dinner and tried fresh mint tea for the first time in my life.
It came after the induction. We were stood listening the band who were playing a cover of Lightening Bolt by Jake Bugg. All the regular small talk was going on yet all I could think of was how starving I felt and that I wanted to sneak off for a burger. I soon caved and brought up the subject of dinner and people quickly came on board.
So four of us set off. There was an artistic student type who seemed very ‘anarchist’ and punk, a left-wing, business-doing and upper-class seeming Londoner who decided to join the induction after bumping into a rebel in a cafe, a man from Netherlands who reminded me all too much of my Dad and me.. a hotel receptionist, 21 year old girl.
We strolled down Oxford Street attempting to find a place that would suit us all. The Gentleman from central London was very enthusiastic about a nearby Lebanese restaurant. I mentioned that I’d never had a Lebanese before and so he insisted we dined there.
I think I would have really enjoyed being a waiter that evening and trying to work out what our relationships were, how we knew each other and how we ended up sat down sharing a mezze dinner at 10pm on Oxford Street. Despite each of our different lifestyles and personalities we had quite a lovely dinner. We ended it with some complimentary baklava (for a problem I didn’t quite understand) and some fresh mint tea, as offered by the Gentleman.
Camping at Marble Arch
It was a beautiful evening. Marble Arch was peaceful and silent… aside from the group of people nearby still celebrating 420. Once I got away from them and to my tent, surrounded by my fellow climate warriors, I felt serenity and calm. There was no noise of traffic or commotion and I could sit in the doorway of my tent looking out onto the arch.
Despite being a solo female camping in the middle of a capital city well known for crime, I felt safer than ever. I felt more alive than I had since I got back from Asia and I was excited to wake up in the middle of the adventure.
I didn’t have a sleeping bag. I was using a camping blanket that was the cheapest option in Go Outdoors when I was leaving. I’d heard a rumour about tents being taken away by the police so I didn’t want to bring anything high quality if it was at risk of being removed. That decision stuck with me as I shivered all the way to sunrise on Easter Day.
Well it’s needless to say, I won’t be writing a packing guide on what to take to a protest for you all.
Have you read part one? Find it here!!