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‘It’s a little ritual’: Extinction Rebellion activist defends protest at Remembrance Day service

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·3-min read
Extinction Rebellion protesters laid a wreath about climate change at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day. (PA)
Extinction Rebellion protesters laid a wreath about climate change at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day. (PA)

An Extinction Rebellion (XR) activist has been criticised after he described the annual Remembrance Day as a “little ritual”.

Army veteran and XR member Donald Bell helped unveil a banner reading ‘Honour Their Sacrifice, Climate Change Means War’ at the Cenotaph on Whitehall, in central London on Wednesday morning.

After the banner was displayed, Bell observed a two-minute silence before hanging a wreath of poppies bearing the message ‘act now’.

After a wave of criticism over the stunt – including from Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer – Bell attempted to defend his actions on Thursday morning.

Donald Bell placed the wreath about climate change on the day that the war dead were remembered. (PA)
Donald Bell placed the wreath about climate change on the day that the war dead were remembered. (PA)

But while speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain (GMB), Bell received further criticism for describing Remembrance Day as a “little ritual”.

When it was put to him that Remembrance Day was “not about climate change”, Bell responded: “Those soldiers gave their lives for our futures so that we could live in peace.

“So when we have a government that ignores this climate emergency that we're in, their inaction is a crime.

“When they turn up there every year for their little ritual, that is a sign of disrespect as far as I'm concerned.”

When asked to clarify if he was referring to Remembrance Day, Bell added: “Yes. As far as the political side of this country is concerned, it's just something they go through every year and I don't feel they they really respect that massive loss of life.”

Watch: Extinction Rebellion stage climate change protest at Cenotaph

Bell, 64, who completed four tours in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, had previously said his actions were in response to the government’s “Dad’s Army” approach to protecting the country from climate change.

Following Wednesday’s stunt, the prime minister’s spokesman said: “The Cenotaph is a memorial to those who fought and died to preserve all our freedoms.

“On today, of all days, when we join together to pay tribute to our war dead, this action was profoundly disrespectful.”

A spokesman for Labour leader Starmer added: “No one can doubt how serious the climate emergency is, but the protests at the Cenotaph are wrong.

“They are in bad taste. We do not support them.”

Donald Bell saluted the Cenotaph before laying the climate change wreath. (PA)
Donald Bell saluted the Cenotaph before laying the climate change wreath. (PA)

The Royal British Legion also hit out at the group’s stunt, saying the day was not a time for political protest.

An RBL spokesman added: “War memorials and graves honour the memory of every member of the Armed Forces who has made the ultimate sacrifice and deserve to be treated with the utmost respect.”

Watch: Extinction Rebellion criticised for ‘profoundly disrespectful’ protest at Cenotaph