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Over 100 protesters helped shut down the bridge in front of city hall. Photo: Meagan Casalino/Fulcrum

Extinction Rebellion held a protest in Ottawa on Friday, joining other groups around the world who took action this week

Protesters shut down the Laurier Avenue bridge on Friday morning to demand action from the city and from Parliament Hill on the climate crisis. 

Extinction Rebellion, a climate emergency activism group, joined other chapters across Canada and the world in shutting down bridges in major cities. According to the press release from the group, over 100 activists have been arrested as a result. 

Almost 100 participants gathered in front of Ottawa City Hall at 10 a.m. Organizers said the protest would occupy the bridge for as long as fellow participants want to stay.

Extinction Rebellion has three demands for governments, asking them to declare a climate and ecological emergency as well as to act on it by reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2025. The group also demands that the governments create and be led by the decisions made from a People’s Assembly on Climate Action.

Xavier, who asked for their last name not to be used, is one of the co-organizers of the protest.

“Globally, our movement has a rich history of taking action on bridges,” said Xavier.  “The traditional methods of getting people to take notice, like petitions, have not worked. We take part in non-violent civil disobedience to help spread our message.” 

“We really hope we get people to notice the importance of the issue and really think carefully about how they can help,” added Xavier. 

Demetre Kontos, a political science student at the University of Ottawa, says he came prepared to stay the afternoon with food, water and layers. He says physical activism is important to get the message across. 

“I think there needs to be a more active voice in the streets, especially something disruptive that will put a bit of pressure on politicians,” said Kontos.

Kontos says students should be concerned about the environment and climate emergency. 

“People maybe don’t see something to benefit from coming here … it’s something that maybe they don’t feel like it’s a pressing issue in their lives, but to everyone, it should be.”

Janice Swan, an international development student at the U of O, says climate action protests should be constant. 

“We did the (Global Climate Strike) a few weeks ago … which was valuable in itself, but it’s important to continue on snowballing from that,” said Swan.

Swan says she’s disappointed to see a lack of student representation at the protest. 

“I think it’s unfortunate that there aren’t more students here now. It is reading week, so a lot of people are back home and I like to think that they would be here if they were (in the city).”

“It’s not related to a lack of passion in the movement, because I do know a lot of students that are making changes in different parts of their lives and coming out and marching is just one form of activism,” said Swan. 

Swan says the university could do more to make students aware of these protests. 

“I don’t think a lot of students did know this was something going on. It would be really helpful if the university could send out emails or create some kind of platform where students could find out where these activities are taking place.”

Kontos says even mandatory courses in climate emergencies at the U of O would be a method of education and activism. He says the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom is requiring students to take a compulsory lecture on sustainable living. 

Xavier says they encourage more participants to come out to events to show their support by being present. 

“It’s not only a great way to make a mark in history and say to your future children and grandchildren that you stood up to take action on keeping the world a beautiful, clean place,” said Xavier. “But also it’s a great way to improve your skills, to take action in terms of public speaking, getting to socialize in groups, so it’s a real opportunity for everyone.”

Extinction Rebellion says they will be holding future protests, but would not provide more details. 

Editor’s Note (18/10/19, 10:42 p.m.): A previous version of this article used Xavier’s incorrect pronouns. The Fulcrum apologizes for and regrets this error.