Extinction Rebellion lays hundreds of children’s shoes outside Hackney Town Hall for climate change protest

More than 600 pairs of shoes were donated for the protest. Photograph: XR Hackney

Local Extinction Rebellion (XR) members this week placed more than 600 pairs of children’s shoes in front of Hackney Town Hall as they called on local and national authorities to treat the climate crisis with the same urgency as the coronavirus response.

Rebels involved in the protest wore masks and stuck to social distancing guidelines as they laid out the shoes, donated by supporters across London, and held up a banner reading ‘Covid today > Climate tomorrow > Act Now’.

Their efforts follow a larger protest in Trafalgar Square last week which involved more than 2,000 shoes. The footwear used in both actions will be given to anti-poverty charity Shoe Aid. 

The shoes are intended to serve as a reminder to those in power of the need to protect young people from both coronavirus and climate change.

XR Hackney spokesperson John Owens said: “First of all, as Hackney residents, we want to offer our solidarity with those living through this deeply worrying time in Hackney, which is among the boroughs most badly affected by coronavirus, not just in London, but the country.

“We wanted to recognise the deadly impact of coronavirus, while also highlighting that as we emerge from it there is a vital moment in which we can begin to build a better future, and avert the climate crisis.

“The authorities and big polluters of the world cannot be allowed to take us back to how things were before.”

Messages, some written by children, were slipped under the shoes. Photograph: XR Hackney

Stoke Newington mum-of-two Sue Livermore donated a pair of pink wellies previously worn by her four-year-old daughter.

She said: “We felt it was great that the children could be involved and represented, even if they couldn’t be there, because they are the ones who will be massively impacted by climate change.”

The action is part of XR’s No Going Back campaign, which saw local Rebels take part in a socially distanced bike ride through the borough on 17 May to demand more investment in walking and cycling infrastructure.

Livermore added: “Air pollution in London is a concern and we want to continue to see people out and walking and on their bikes rather than going back to their cars. It’s better for both mental and physical health.” 

Thirteen-year-old XR Youth member Jocelyn Goldstein, also from Stoke Newington, said she was “scared” by the climate crisis and that action “should have been taken long ago”.

But she has been heartened by seeing people come together in response to Covid-19, such as the weekly applause for frontline workers.

She said: “It shows we can unite and act as a community to support one another, and it shows that the government is able to take major steps when it really wants to.”