Thousands of activists gather in Glasgow for 'opening ceremony' of COP26 protests

30 October 2021, 18:20

Saturday&squot;s march has been dubbed the "opening ceremony" to a fortnight of protests
Saturday's march has been dubbed the "opening ceremony" to a fortnight of protests. Picture: Alamy Live News

By Daisy Stephens

Thousands of protestors have gathered in Glasgow ahead of COP26, including activists who entangled themselves in netting and others who marched thousands of miles to get there.

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Members of Ocean Rebellion led a "dead merpeoples" demonstration, with activists lying motionless entangled in netting and litter near the Clyde in Glasgow to raise awareness of marine life loss.

Members of Extinction Rebellion (XR) Faith, artists and other pilgrimage groups who have walked thousands of miles to Scotland's largest city joined each other in a procession through the city centre on Saturday.

The event was said to be an "opening ceremony" to a series of non-violent direct actions being planned in Glasgow, around the UK and the world during the United Nations climate change convention.

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The procession started at 2pm at the McLennan Arch on Glasgow Green, where XR Scotland's "Blue Rebels" formed a guard of honour for the pilgrims.

Eco protestors march through Glasgow

Those arriving in the city included Marcha Glasgow, a group of Spanish activists who took a ferry from Bilbao to Portsmouth to embark on a 30-day hike to Glasgow.

Camino to COP26 members have walked from London and Bristol to Glasgow in just under two months.

Young Christian Climate Network activists arrived in the city on Saturday after walking 1,200 miles from Cornwall.

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Ecumenical Pilgrimage for Climate Justice arrived in Glasgow from Poland, Sweden and Germany - and Pilgrimage for COP26 has walked from Dunbar to Glasgow.

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Glasgow-based artists Zoe Walker and Neil Bromwich paraded with the Serpent of Capitalism, a 30-metre sculptural artwork alongside the pilgrimage groups.

Alex Cochrane, of XR Glasgow, said the northern hemisphere had a "carbon-intensive lifestyle" that was impacting countries in the south.

"COP26 must end a growing crime against humanity by wealthy governments where the global south are sacrificed to bear the brunt of the global north's affluent, carbon-intensive lifestyles," he said.

"We welcome the pilgrims of faith - and no faith - who are walking to COP26 to demand governments also walk the walk for the global south."

Yaz Ashmawi, of XR Pilgrim, said: "Countries around the world are already suffering the consequences of our historic emissions in the west, and small island states like the Maldives will be submerged by rising seas if no immediate action is taken on the climate.

"As people of faith we have a spiritual duty of care to those who are less fortunate than us, so we have been using this walk to raise money for activists in financially disadvantaged countries that are already impacted, to empower them to join this conversation themselves."

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The marches come the day before world leaders are to meet in Glasgow for the crucial climate conference where countries are under pressure to discuss and increase their ambition to tackle the climate crisis.

Up to 30,000 people will descend on the city over a two-week period.

On Friday, Ocean Rebellion activists poured "oil" in front of Glasgow's COP26 venue in protest ahead of the event.

Another four XR protesters locked themselves to the Memorial Gates at the University of Glasgow using bike locks to demand that the establishment adopt the Green New Deal - a climate strategy developed by students and staff at the university.

Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, Scotland's most senior police officer, said his force will respond "swiftly and robustly" to protesters who try to disrupt the summit.

He said the force - together with 7,000 officers from other parts of the UK who have been deployed to Scotland to help police COP26 - was "ready for the challenges that lie ahead".