COP26 Coalition climate assembly confusion in Northampton leads to calls for greater communication after near-miss with wedding

The event had to relocate last-minute to avoid interrupting a wedding in progress at All Saints' Church

Tuesday, 9th November 2021, 9:33 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th November 2021, 9:36 am

Last weekend's COP26 Coalition assembly in Northampton had to relocate last-minute after nearly intruding on a wedding held at All Saints' Church, leading to calls for greater communication between climate protestors and their communities.

Originally planned to take place outside All Saints Church on Saturday November 6, the COP26 Coalition assembly ended up moving to Northampton's Market Square when they discovered the clash.

Participants carried placards emblazoned with the message 'Stop Failing Us', 'Act Now, there is no Planet B', 'Save Weekley Hall Woods', 'Liar Liar Earth on Fire' and marched from the Umbrella Fair, Northampton Racecourse to the Market Square. A number of local activists also gave speeches around those issues.

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The march was organised by Extinction Rebellion Northampton while the assembly in the town square was set up by the COP26 Coalition. Photo: Kirsty Edmonds.

According to Father Oliver Coss, the confusion arose, in part, because the land immediately outside All Saints is joint-owned by the church and West Northamptonshire Council, which blurs the line on whether it is a private or public space.

Father Oliver Coss, who raised his concerns about this clash and others on Twitter, said that he generally supports the protestors' aims but that their sudden appearances can cause problems, such as those seen on Saturday.

He said: "I don't expect people who are protesting to go around asking people for permission. That would kind of defeat the purpose of a protest.

"I think where we have encountered a big issue like climate change, where we have an awful lot invested in it and COP26, you need the broadest coalition possible.

The march was among 20 that took place in cities across the UK, including Glasgow and London. Photo: Kirsty Edmonds.

"You can see that the climate is a really key issue to get right now, or maybe before now.

"I think it's about working together."

Father Coss also says that he is now in communication with climate groups and is happy that incidents like this can be avoided in future.

The COP26 Coalition, which organised the assembly, is made up of various local environmental groups, including Extinction Rebellion, Friends of the Earth and others. They were joined on the day by members of Save Weekley Hall Wood, Unison, Labour and others.

A representative from Greenpeace, who was speaking as part of the coalition, said they have given a 'full and profuse apology' to Father Coss and that they, too, had mistakenly thought the space was public. They agreed with Father Coss that greater communication would be needed in future.

The spokesman said: "Relationship building is extremely important as without the support of local people we can't do what we are doing effectively. Community engagement is incredibly important as this is where the pressure for change will come from and hopefully drive politicians to act.

"We absolutely agree with Father Coss. In fact COP26 Coalition's aim is to strengthen the climate justice movement and build power from below.

"We want to bring together movements from indigenous struggles to trade unions, race justice groups, youth groups, faith groups and all parts of the community. Only those who will suffer can imagine and build the future that works for everyone."

With another week left for COP26 in Glasgow, the climate lobby has many more events planned to raise awareness, and possibly action, to address their concerns for the climate.