5 Nov, 2021 @ 16:00
2 mins read

Why a strange figure wrapped in red cloth will be haunting a plaza in southern Spain during COP26

Protest by Extinction Rebellion La Janda in Vejer
Protest by Extinction Rebellion La Janda in Vejer

THERE is an unusual sight in Vejer this week where each day from dawn to dusk a figure draped from head to toe in scarlet red cloth will be found making a silent protest in the Plaza España.

The presence of this ‘red rebel’ serves as a reminder for the very grave climate crisis we are facing and is being staged every day while the world’s leaders gather some 3,000 km north at the COP26 in Glasgow.

“This mute representative of the nature of our region (this symbolic drop of blood that speaks of the pain felt by all beings) will be looking at the headquarters of our administration, sometimes with anger, sometimes with sadness… But always waiting for action”, explained Joanna Crowson, activist and promoter of the group Extinction Rebellion in La Janda which is behind the protest.

“The idea is to capture the attention of citizens in Vejer. COP26 is in the news everyday but it can feel very separate from what’s going on in our daily lives. But in fact, change starts locally which is why the red rebel will be facing the Ayuntamiento,” the 59-year-old activist told the Olive Press.

“There is a need to make local councils responsible for carrying out the commitments under the Plan Andaluz por la Acción por el Clima and ensure they have the resources and the expertise to do so.” 

From first light until the sun sets, through rain and shine, the red clad figure will be present in the square staring across at the Town Hall. In fact the constant presence of a red rebel is achieved with a relay of a dozen activists – each taking a shift of around three hours each before swapping with another.

“During the early morning shift and the evening one it can be quite chilly,” admitted Crowson. “But it fulfils the need to do something, to speak out about what climate change means for our local environment.”


The protest, which began on November 1 with the start of COP26 and will continue until midday on November 12 when the climate summit ends, will end with a demonstration.

“We plan to read out a letter written to the Town Hall as if from the local ecosystem and then stage a mass dying out where we fall to the ground and play dead for two minutes,” said Crowson.

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Joanna Crowson pictured right. Photo: Califavejer

An extract of that letter reads: “A lot of food is produced from our soils. But your way of farming is damaging us. Caterpillar wants you to know of his disappointment at how the use of poisons is killing pollinators along with pests, and how this creates problems later when they try to find balance between them.

“River warns that she is not a rubbish dump, even though that is how you use her, and that these agricultural poisons end up in her waterway, turning her body, which should be pure and full of life, into toxicity. Stick Insect asks you to observe nature and to stop trying to eliminate everything that bothers you. It would be better to work in harmony with the processes of nature.”


Fiona Govan

Fiona Govan joined The Olive Press in March 2021. She moved to Spain in 2006 to be The Daily Telegraph’s Madrid correspondent and then worked for six years as Editor of The Local Spain. She lives in Madrid’s Malasaña district with her dog Rufus.

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