November 25, 2021
The #DefundClimateChaos action took place in October with youth strikers and climate activists around the world rising up against banks and insurers responsible for fossil capital. Friends of the Earth New Forest organisers Susie Laan and Louise Ravula organised a demonstration outside Barclays in Totton to protest the bank’s role in accelerating climate breakdown…
On Friday 29 October, a small group gathered outside the Totton branch of Barclays bank, for a #DefundClimateChaos protest. We wanted to take action on the eve of COP26 and felt targeting one of the big five banks investing in fossil fuels was a positive action to take. Totton is a small town where protests rarely happen, unlike the nearby city of Southampton.
Our first step was to hand over a letter to the bank manager and another similar letter to the bank staff asking Barclays to divest away from fossil fuels.
Two children in our group handed out leaflets to the public, which #DefundClimateChaos supplied, along with a banner. We were a bit cheeky as we also popped some leaflets in the leaflet racks in the bank and on all the desks.
There wasn’t an overly warm response from the public, but we felt we were planting seeds in people’s minds. After a very short conversation a gentleman said that “Really, he should change banks”. It was great to hear someone acknowledging the problems and looking for a way they could help contribute to changing the bank’s behaviour. That evening there was an explosion of media coverage on the news following the international #DefundClimateChaos protests and we were even more certain our protest would have had an impact.
The children drew artistically with chalk on the pavement, right outside the bank’s main entrance, with images of climate change. Soon others in the group were writing facts about how much was being invested by Barclays and other banks since the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. We felt people took more notice, seeing these shocking figures, and it was a shame rainy weather had prevented us from doing this earlier.
The demonstrators were featured in an article in The Daily Echo
The local city newspaper, The Daily Echo, interviewed Louise and myself, and we also appeared in The Lymington Times. We explained why we were taking this action. I remember saying how worried I was for the future of my two year old granddaughter, who also happened to be with us. I brought a placard I had made, saying “Our grandchildren need a living world”, as I feel this passionately.
Once the protest was over I was feeling inspired, so I went to the Hythe branch of Lloyds bank and used the remaining chalk to write the same messages but using Lloyd’s name. I had a bundle of leaflets left, so I went round all of the shops, cafes and estate agents handing out and placing leaflets everywhere until they were all gone. I was surprised that most people reacted in a much better way than they had in Totton. One young shop assistant said he also worked for the Co-Op and would take a bundle of leaflets to hand out there.
When I walked back to Lloyds they were busy scrubbing off the chalk messages, which was within the hour of me writing them.
We were featured on page 4 of the print version of the Daily Echo, and there was a great write up in the online version too, with lots of photos. They even printed our call to action: complain to your bank, or even better change to an ethical one!
Susie Laan is a member of Friends of the Earth, New Forest