Originally posted on Facebook on 12 April 2017.
We would like to sincerely apologise for the video of the action at Bell Pottinger, which was uploaded on our Facebook page on Tuesday 11th April. In response to the video, several comments were made expressing concern and outrage about the reference to the EZLN and the Zapatista movement. We acknowledge that individuals and groups have been legitimately hurt by the narrative style of action, the video, and the use of the acronym ‘EZLN’. We respect their feelings and can only deeply apologise for having been the cause of them. The video has been removed from our page in order to prevent further offence, but in no way as an attempt to undermine, dismiss or hide the perspectives outlined in the comments.
We can see that our work in London was clumsy and hurtful. In our hope to build bridges and create solidarity, we made mistakes. We realise that better engagement, or more discussion, with groups in London and beyond could have prevented these mistakes from happening. We’d like to apologise for these mistakes, and grow from them.
As well as causing offence, we see that we missed a crucial opportunity to use this action, video and platform to communicate the struggle of the Zapatista movement and the killings, human rights violations and violent repression Indigenous people continue to face.
We also see that there was a serious miscommunication in the video; we did not intend to compare the Zapatistas or anyone else, to animals, which would indeed be a shocking and degrading comparison. We deeply apologise if this is the message that came across and we can only express that this was the furthest from our intentions.
The climate movement in the UK has deep issues of privilege. We hope that this incident can be part of a difficult conversation which we acknowledge is needed, and not a reason to prevent opportunities for solidarity and further work together.
We hope to speak with the groups that have been offended and seek their input based on their links with the Zapatistas and other Indigenous networks in London. We would like to engage in a personal dialogue with them – if they are also happy to engage with us – not just in response to this incident but to create a longer term dynamic where we can work alongside each other with solidarity and respect.
Again, we can see that our work in London was particularly clumsy. The revolution in Chiapas is one that we all have utmost respect for, but also much to learn from. We also hope that we, as Reclaim the Power, can learn from this experience to better shape our actions and communications in the future. In the meantime we apologise to all who have been offended or hurt by this action and urge more people to learn more about the Zapatistas, and support, them when they can.
Below, is more context about the background behind the action. This context is provided as a further frame of reference and not an attempt to legitimise acts that have caused upset and offence.
On Monday 10th April, 40 activists dressed up as animals stormed into the lobby of a PR company that works with the fracking industry. They left a trail of leaves, branches and twigs behind, shouting that they were “nature defending itself”. The action was done in solidarity with communities in Lancashire and around the UK resisting fracking every day.
The template for this action was initially started by a Brussels collective two years ago, who named themselves “Ensemble Zoologique pour la Libération de la Nature” (EZLN). They have since been coordinating the same template of action against car companies, banks, free-trade agreement, agricultural companies, etc. The Brussels collective has now internationalised with their first action in London against fracking alongside Reclaim the Power. Their fight is not single-issued, it is part of the wide movement against neoliberal capitalism.
The Brussels collective decided to use the same acronym as the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional (EZLN), the Zapatista revolutionary group in Chiapas, out of respect and admiration for their work. Using the same name is a mere tribute, and a willingness to highlight their shared fight against neoliberal capitalism and desire for a new world.
At an individual level, the activists in Brussels have been involved with the Zapatista movement for several years, and have engaged in their struggle in different ways including coordination for the Civil Observation Brigades.
Recently, a meeting was held between the Brussels collective and a close friend of the Zapatistas to share experiences, ideas and solidarity. Out of this, the declaration of the Brussels collective was created. Each sentence explains how their work and ideals relate to the work of the Zapatistas in Chiapas. The Zapatista communities that the Brussels collective are in contact with are aware of the actions that were held in Europe, and the fact that the same acronym is being used.
The specific tactic of dressing up as animals was an idea inspired by the slogan “We are nature defending itself” during the COP21, and was intended to be a comedic tool to bring attention to serious issues that we must collectively stand against. We did not seek to make a direct comparison to the powerful and inspiring revolutionary groups in Chiapas. We acknowledge that the context in the UK is not the same as the one in Belgium. In this case, we realise that this attempt at humour has inadvertently created hurtful experiences and apologise to those affected.
In their 6th declaration, the Zapatistas state “we want to tell the brothers and sisters of Social Europe, that which is dignified and rebel, that you are not alone. That your great movements against the neoliberal wars bring us joy. That we are attentively watching your forms of organization and your methods of struggle so that we can perhaps learn something.” We had hoped that our actions, as small and incomparable as they are, would put a smile on their faces and show that a small collective in Europe fights for the same aims as them, in their own way. We apologise again that in this case our intentions were misguided and hope to learn from them for the future.