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Rebels T

Cath German shares her experiences of protesting with children here are times when you’re scrubbing mud off your spuds, stomping about in your second-hand clothes, walking here, cycling there, eschewing plastics or air travel, quietly continuing an existing lifestyle that is, by now, so ingrained that it doesn’t even feel like a choice, when it all starts to feel quite humdrum, a bit normal and well, passive. And sometimes, it’s lonely.

I introduced my children to protesting at an early age. My eldest daughter, now 12 years old, started at the tender age of 9 months when we were part of a nurse-in in Parliament Square, protesting about a proposed law that would make it illegal to breastfeed a child over 6 months in public. Since then there have been various noisy local gatherings, and of course, more recently, the regular Youth Strike 4 Climate protests and Extinction Rebellion uprisings.

For children, protesting can be a wonderful and exciting thing to be part of. So often children feel that they don’t have a say, that decisions are made about their future by adults in power who have no regard for their thoughts, opinions and feelings, or in fact, for their future. Give them a drum or a whistle, a bright banner, and suddenly they can have an impact. Faced with the global threat of climate breakdown or, at a local level, building on land where they play or watch kestrels hunting, they can feel helpless. We all do.

There are times when you long to march to a beat, to chant, shout, yell as loud as you can. To whoop in agreement. To connect with a complete stranger over shared values. To waft a jaunty banner. To call out, in your small way, “I am here and I am trying to ‘be’ different and ‘do’ something.” To find others who are ‘being’ and ‘doing’ the same. To sing together with one voice. To wave your hands, to dance in the street. To revel in all your glorious uncooperative crustiness. To bang a drum. To return, energised and inspired, with renewed vigour and courage. To be an active part of a bigger whole.

I suppose, coming from a background of political and environmental activism, I’ve always felt it is imperative to get involved and have a say (or a shout), not merely to cast my vote in some election and then sit back and see what happens. Some of my earliest memories involve tramping dark streets canvassing with my parents, and I remember the moment I realised I could read – when I deciphered the peeling miners’ strike stickers on the back of the bathroom door (that dates me nicely!) And so, when we had our girls, I knew that we would be bringing them up as people who question, think, act and seek to make a change.

Protesting gives us a voice. So often there is a conspicuous lack of children at protest marches, and yet, the very issues being fought are over their future – their right to a future, to clean air, food, shelter, civil liberties, or even just wild, open places where they can play. Perhaps protest marches get bad press and, yes, you have to be sensible – do your research, pick your spots, your times and your days. But I can honestly say that every single march or gathering I have taken the girls to has been joyful, peaceful, uplifting and energising. In fact, XR uprisings in London, during the daytime at least, have very much had the feel of a festival, >


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