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LONDON — On Monday 22 April, activists staged a protest at the Natural History Museum to raise awareness about climate change. It was part of the series of mass protests which have taken place across central London over the last nine days, organized by the environmental activist group, Extinction Rebellion.
The protest at the Natural History Museum, which Extinction Rebellion called a “die-in”, began at 2pm when around 100 people simultaneously laid down underneath the blue whale skeleton which hangs from the ceiling of the museum’s main hall. They remained on the floor for around half an hour in silence.
Beginning on April 15, the Extinction Rebellion has staged protests and acts of civil disobedience in central London locations such as Oxford Street, Waterloo Bridge, Parliament Square, and Marble Arch. The climate activists have blocked roads, disrupted a train line, and conducted a protest at Heathrow. Since the protests began, 9,000 police officers have been called in to manage protesters and over 1,000 people have been arrested.
The “die-in” at the Natural History Museum was one of a number of protests which took place on Easter Monday, which was a bank holiday in the UK. In leaflets handed out at the protest, Extinction Rebellion organizers explained: “Climate change, pesticides, pollution, and habitat destruction — all driven by human activity — are pushing the world into the Sixth Mass Extinction event. We are facing a loss of life on a scale last seen 66 million years ago, when the dinosaurs were wiped out.”
It continued: “We are staging this die-in as an act of grief to highlight this unfolding catastrophe of cosmic proportions. Extinction Rebellion is calling on governments and corporations to act now on the climate and ecological emergency.”
The protest also included a performance by the “Red Brigade” troupe, which has participated in several Extinction Rebellion actions. Dressed in vibrant red robes and veils and with their faces painted white, the performers descended the staircase, dancing to classical music.
One of the troupe’s organisers, Doug Francisco, told Hyperallergic: “The Red Brigade were honoured to participate in the die-in at the Natural History Museum, mourning the loss of all species past and future, dancing with the dinosaurs and paying homage to the majesty of the great blue whale, celebrating the blood we share with all species we came in peace to honour and protect.”
On the Facebook event, the protest at the Natural History Museum was described as “a family friendly afternoon of peaceful protest, awareness raising, play and celebration”. Grant Grobler, a Londoner who participated in the protest with his three children, told Hyperallergic: “I think it’s amazing and I for one am getting my children involved. Allowing them to understand the truth and knowing they have the opportunity to be that change they want to see.”
The Natural History Museum houses more than 80 million specimens spanning billions of years and attracts around five million visitors annually. Extinction Rebellion organizers were keen to point out that the “die-in” was not targeted against the museum, which it described as the “home of the history of our life on Earth, from the smallest insects to the largest mammals.”
In a statement emailed to Hyperallergic, a spokesperson for the Natural History Museum said: “The peaceful protest was supervised by Museum staff to ensure the safety of visitors and allow them continued access to the galleries. It took place without incident.”
Extinction Rebellion was set up last year and is now one of the largest activist groups in the world raising awareness about climate change. Over the course of the last nine days of protests, its membership has grown from 10,000 to 40,000, and it has raised almost £200,000 (~$258,000). The environmental activists have three core demands: for the government to “tell the truth about climate change”; to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025; and to create a citizens’s assembly to oversee progress.
Critics of Extinction Rebellion say that the protests have caused unnecessary disruption and wasted police time. The protest group has also been criticized for attempting to get as many people as possible arrested. Today the organizers of Extinction Rebellion announced that the protests would end tomorrow, with a closing ceremony held at 5pm at Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park.