Extinction Rebellion protest: what did campaigners do in House of Commons - what is a ‘citizens’ assembly’?

Extinction Rebellion held a protest in Parliament calling for a citizens’ assembly

Climate activists posing as tourists superglued themsleves around the Speaker’s chair in Parliament.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) said around 50 people were involved in the “non-violent” action in the House of Common at the Palace of Westminster.

They said three people booked on an official tour of the building glued themselves in a chain around the Speaker’s chair before they read out a speech.

What are XR calling for?

XR activists read out a speech support of a citizens’ assembly to act on climate matters during the protest.

The campaign group posted a photo on Twitter showing the three members hand-in-hand in front of the seat, with two other members holding up signs.

Handout photo taken with permission from the twitter feed of Extinction Rebellion of protesters who have superglued themselves around the Speaker's chair in the House of Commons chamber, as they call for a Citizen's Assembly. Picture date: Friday September 2, 2022.

Read XR’s speech in full

The speech read about by activists was: “We are in crisis. And what goes on in this chamber every day makes a joke out of us all. We can not afford to carry on like this.

“It is possible to act on climate and costs in a way that is fair and supports everyone. But our political system is too out of date and out of touch to see beyond the next election cycle and do what needs to be done. We need a new way of making decisions, where more voices are heard, not just those at the top. We need the true diversity of the country to be represented.

“We need a Citizens’ Assembly, now. Citizens’ Assemblies empower ordinary people to make decisions that benefit everyone. Decisions that can get us out of this mess and make life better, safer, fairer for all of us.”

Did XR carry out any other protests?

One protester climbed up scaffolding inside the parliamentary estate near Westminster Hall and held a banner that read: “Let the people decide, citizens’ assembly now.”

Two of its members also used bike locks to chain themselves to the railings to the New Palace Yard entrance gates.

Police responded in a bid to deal with the protesters inside and outside the building.

Extinction Rebellion protesters, who have padlocked their necks to the railings, outside the Houses of Parliament, Westminster, calling for a Citizen's assembly. The campaign group says supporters have also superglued themselves around the Speaker's chair in the House of Commons chamber. Picture date: Friday September 2, 2022.

What have XR said about the protests?

Alanna Byrne of Extinction Rebellion said: “It is possible to change things and update politics so it really represents ordinary people. Independent citizens’ assemblies can show that those blocking progress in Westminster have no democratic mandate to continue destroying the environment and give power back to people. Selected like a jury and supported with independent, expert knowledge, this is true democracy that reflects the diversity of the population.

“But to create a new, fairer politics will require first thousands, then millions of us. It will require sustained culture-shifting civil disobedience, until we become impossible to ignore. Then, when there’s enough of us, positive change will become inevitable.”

An XR activist, who would only give his name as Al from Northamptonshire, said demonstrators had smuggled banners into the Commons chamber in a “bag within a bag”.

He said: “The action today was to form a circle around the Speaker’s chair. People glued themselves around the Speaker’s chair, they didn’t damage the Speaker’s chair in any way, and they glued themselves to each other.”

XR protester Joe Short, from Bristol, added: “I have locked myself to the railings outside the Houses of Parliament.

“It is part of a bigger protest which is about climate inaction but it is also about a citizens’ assembly which is an alternative form of democracy which could be much more effective at dealing with problems like climate change.”

Have the House of Commons responded to the protests?

A House of Commons spokesman said: “We are aware of an incident on the parliamentary estate and are currently dealing with the situation as a matter of urgency.”

The Commons and Lords are in recess until Monday.