The silent protest by the newly formed Extinction Rebellion (XR) Southsea was a precursor to a string of ‘top secret’ ‘rebellion’ events planned in London next week including plans to ‘blockade’ parliament before MPs restart after summer.
The Southsea branch will link up with members across the country to ‘demand’ a climate emergency bill is passed and ensure air quality improvements are made.
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XR Southsea co-ordinator, Selma Heimedinger, said: 'If the bill comes in it could be quite changing as it would not just protect clean air but wildlife and soil quality - in 60 years we won’t be able to grow anything if we carry on like this.
‘We are protesting with shoes to represent all those who die each year from air pollution related illnesses as a launch to going to London on Tuesday for a week where we will blockade parliament before their restart after summer to demand they pass this bill.
‘It is the only way to get attention. Nothing has been done for so many years so this is the best non-violent way.
‘Portsmouth City Council say they can’t do anything as it’s down to central government so we’re going to them. We do have a lot of support from MPs already though.’
Selma said there will be a number of stunts throughout the week in London after the parliament showdown but remained tight-lipped on details.
‘There will be different things every day which are top secret but it will be things like yoga in a challenging location,’ she said.
The protest on Saturday was part of XR groups across the country staging roadblocks and targeting airports in London, Bristol, Manchester, Cardiff and Leeds.
In Guildhall Square a variety of shoes assembled on the steps - ranging from footwear worn by young and old to represent all those who die as a result of air pollution.
Seasoned XR campaigners were joined by new members - some who had taken their shoes off.
Alison Vanhaefton, a group member, said: ‘The protest was a precursor to the London rebellion.
‘We want to put pressure on the council as not enough is being done.
‘If the bill gets passed it means citizens will have a big say in the future of climate change - not just politicians who do nothing.’
Antonio Angelino, an XR member, questioned why the area around the council owned port shipping firm Portico was ‘exempt’ from the planned clean air zone in the city - calling for ‘transparency’.
He said: ‘Over 30 per cent of the world’s pollution is from shipping so why is this area exempt when vehicles are using it every day and night?’
Jan Saintledger, 64, from Gosport, decided to join the protest after seeing a program about XR on television. ‘I have five grandchildren and don’t want to leave a legacy where they can’t live,’ she said.
‘It’s about taking action.’