|From the roof of the Houses of Parliament
||[Oct. 12th, 2009|08:32 pm]
Rainspotting in Bangalore
Yesterday afternoon, a group of fifty-five Greenpeace UK activists scaled the walls of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster to protest that the Government wasn't doing enough towards reaching an ambitious and fair deal at the Copenhagen climate talks. Twenty-nine year old activist Brikesh Singh (foreground, left) of Greenpeace India traveled from Bangalore to London to take part in the protest, and is one of the seven activists remaining on the highest section of roof nearly 24 hours later. From his vantage point, he relates how the group managed to evade security, the din of the incessant chiming of Big Ben, and why he felt the action was worth the risk of deportation.|
“I only found out the day before we came up here that I was going to be getting onto the roof of the mother of all Parliaments.
It wasn’t very difficult to get up here actually. Apparently the tourist season in London ended a week or two ago, so there were only a couple of cops at the venue, and we’re all trained climbers so it wasn’t difficult. All the volunteers who wanted to climb gathered in the area on Sunday evening, and at three o’clock it was agreed each person would jump the fence and try to access the roof. It happened so quickly – only ten minutes and we were up.
Once we were on the roof, a couple of protesters told the police that it was a peaceful protest by Greenpeace, we posed no threat to anyone, and that we would be staying up here for 26 hours. Once the cops knew that, they were really peaceful too. They had a couple of negotiations with Damien, our team leader, but we made it clear they’d have to use force to get us to come down, and the cops don’t want to compromise their values and our safety. It’s a good decision by them. They checked we were okay in the night a couple of times, not falling off the roof or anything, and they even gave us some biscuits. I didn’t eat any though, just in case they’d drugged them to airlift us off, or something. I don’t think anyone ate them. We’ve got better biscuits.
Morale’s good up here – everyone’s just happy and chilling and waiting until six o clock when we’ll come down. We’ve blockaded the door that leads up to this top bit of the roof so the cops can’t get to us, but we’ll just unblock that to come down once the parliament session ends. The crowds have been great – people honking, chanting our banner message. It seems like every second person wants to climb onto the roof and vent their frustration at the climate politics, but not everyone can so they’re just glad this group of activists did.
Spending the night up here wasn’t easy though. One of the UK volunteers gave me a jacket as he said I’d freeze my balls off in the one I’d brought with me, and he was right – it was really, really cold. We’ve got water to drink but nothing more interesting unfortunately… some brandy would have helped. On the top roof, the seven of us slept under a spare banner, huddled up like puppies do in the winter. I didn’t sleep at all though because Big Ben kept going off every fifteen minutes - I have never hated a clock so much in my life as that clock last night. Then at 3am the Indian media started up and my phone kept ringing, so I don’t think anyone else got much sleep either.
On the lower roof, people slept on special chairs that we got from some action gadget warehouse – there’s a place that designs apparatus especially for actions. These chairs are balanced so the two people sitting on it have to lift themselves off at the same time, or one could fall. It means no one can safely get you off unless you want to, or the other person might get hurt.
Have I spoken to anyone at home? I called my mum and my brother in Bombay once I was up here and told them not to worry. Anytime I’m on any kind of action my mum immediately starts praying to all of the 36 million gods we have in India that I don’t get arrested and come home safe, so she’s been doing that. My brother told me to chill, have fun and give him a call when I’m out on bail.
Once we come down we’ll definitely have to spend the night in the lock-up, though will probably be slapped with charges and released on bail within a day or two. I am a bit worried that I might get deported as I’m not a citizen, but I knew that was a risk before I chose to come up here. I’ve spoken to lawyers though and they say it’s unlikely; the UK doesn’t just deport people left right and centre, and I’m not a threat, or causing damage.
I don’t know if this kind of protest could happen on the roof of the Indian Parliament…I think it could be a bad idea. The thing is, the second we said we were Greenpeace the cops here immediately understood that it was a peaceful protest and there wasn’t going to be any panic or harm. You’d have to give the cops in India some 210 page novel to get them to understand that. They’re worried about terrorist attacks now too, so it’d be a risky business. I wouldn’t mind, but still.
I’m planning to go back to India on the 18th. If I could have got the Eurostar here I would have, but you can’t. I’m not here on a pleasure trip though – I’m here to represent the one million people that are right now homeless in South India because of flash floods. These people haven’t done anything and they’re being punished by climate change. India has said that it wants to be a ‘deal maker’ at Copenhagen, not a deal breaker, but for that to happen the UK needs to take leadership in setting ambitious emissions cuts.”