Meme Warfare: Students call for Barclays boycott in online protest

Students from the University of Leeds carried out a social media action as part of People & Planet’s National Day of Action on climate change, calling on the University to cut ties with Barclays bank. Society Treasurer Eve Jones explains why.

Barclays bank are the biggest funders of fossil fuel infrastructure in Europe. Despite the university’s sustainability principles, Barclays is their main banking provider. Students from the University of Leeds People and Planet society are calling on the university to cut these ties with Barclays and bank with a sustainable alternative.

On 26 January, students took part in a ‘dogpiling’ action where they coordinated to flood the university’s social media accounts with calls to action. These included sharing a Boycott Barclays petition and memes, commenting on university posts and trying to take over university hashtags.

Society member and Politics and Campaigning representative Anna Windsor said: “We’re asking the University to stop banking with Barclays until it stops investing in the fossil fuel industry. LUU has already passed a motion to lobby the university to cut their ties with Barclays Bank; as students, it feels incredibly important that our institutions listen to us and stop funding the climate crisis. Our day of action was a way to reach out to students who may not have been aware of the Divest Barclays campaign, and to try to make contact with the University, which has not yet been willing to engage with us. To add your voice to our call for the university to bank better, you can sign our petition.”

“We’re asking the University to stop banking with Barclays until it stops investing in the fossil fuel industry.”

The students’ action was part of a national day of action on the last day of Go Green Week (22-26 February), a week of climate education and action organised by People & Planet to increase awareness around the links between climate and borders. It brought together People & Planet’s national climate and migrant justice campaigns: Fossil Free, Divest Barclays and Undoing Borders.

As the impact of the climate crisis becomes more urgent, the world’s poorest countries are the worst affected, despite being responsible for only 1% of global emissions. Millions of people are being displaced by extreme weather events Ð and the border industry profits from it. This Go Green Week’s National Day of Action aimed to campaign against and raise awareness about this injustice.

“It’s imperative we use our power to take action against those profiting from ecological breakdown”

Natasha Ion, Campaigns & Movement Building Coordinator at People & Planet, commented: “The pandemic has exposed deep inequalities here in the UK and globally. These inequalities are similarly exposed by the climate crisis – in who it is that is impacted first and worst. Both crises display to us how interconnected our world is and reaffirms why solidarity across borders is so fundamental in how we move through them. It’s imperative we use our power to take action against those profiting from ecological breakdown, in solidarity with and taking a lead from those marginalised groups and frontline and Indigenous communities experiencing the sharp end of climate and fossil fuel industry injustice. This day of action was an important moment for student campaigners to come together across the UK and send the clear message that climate action from our public institutions cannot wait.”

If you want to find out more about People & Planet society or online activism, you can find them on Facebook as ‘Leeds University Fossil Free’ or @peopleandplanetleeds on Instagram.