Extinction Rebellion Tests The Limits Of Public Protest

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Last April, Extinction Rebellion organized massive protests in London designed to pressure the UK government into taking action to slow the rise in average global temperatures instead of just talking about doing so. What are the goals of these wild eyed radicals? According to Wikipedia, “Extinction Rebellion (abbreviated as XR) is a socio-political movement with the stated aim of using civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance to compel government action on climate breakdown, biodiversity loss, and the risk of social and ecological collapse.”

Extinction Rebellion London
Credit: Pippa Green via Twitter

Here is its stated agenda:

  • We have a shared vision of change — creating a world that is fit for generations to come.
  • We set our mission on what is necessary — mobilizing 3.5% of the population to achieve system change — using ideas such as “momentum-driven organizing” to achieve this.
  • We need a regenerative culture — creating a culture which is healthy, resilient and adaptable.
  • We openly challenge ourselves and this toxic system — leaving our comfort zones to take action for change.
  • We value reflecting and learning — following a cycle of action, reflection, learning, and planning for more action.
  • Learning from other movements and contexts as well as our own experiences.
  • We welcome everyone and every part of everyone — working actively to create safer and more accessible spacesWe actively mitigate for power — breaking down hierarchies of power for more equitable participation.
  • We avoid blaming and shaming — we live in a toxic system, but no one individual is to blame.
  • We are a non-violent network — using non-violent strategy and tactics as the most effective way to bring about change.
  • We are based on autonomy and decentralization — we collectively create the structures we need to challenge power. Anyone who follows these core principles and values can take action in the name of RisingUp!

In the spring, Extinction Rebellion disrupted traffic in London for several days. It even took over the Waterloo Bridge and planted a garden in the middle of it. Extremism doesn’t get much more extreme than that does it? The campaign attracted many ordinary Londoners to join in, including Laura Sorensen, a retired teacher from Somerset, who told The Guardian, “I am so worried about what’s happening to the planet. We are on a knife-edge now and I felt strongly that I needed to get out and show myself, rather than just talk about it in the pub. I see this disaster unfolding all around me … it is terrifying and the government have done nothing despite all the warnings, so we have to act now.” Retired school teachers are such subversives!

Extinction Rebellion is planning to reprise its springtime protests this week. According to Guardian correspondent Leo Barasi, there was overwhelming public support for the protests earlier this year. “The overwhelming majority want action to limit climate change and support a net-zero target; most even support bringing that target forward from the government’s current date,” he writes.

“But most people’s attention stops there. Few people pay attention to the details or punish politicians who don’t have a plan. This means there’s not much incentive for politicians to go beyond simply pledging to tackle the climate crisis with ambitious-sounding targets. The next wave of Extinction Rebellion protests will be a success if it forces climate-friendly politicians to show their proposals. When a politician says they will stop the climate crisis from escalating, the first question that needs to be asked is: ‘how?’”

Recently we published several articles about the perils of public protest. The powers that be in London are not particularly fond of the renewed Extinction Rebellion, public support be damned. These people are dangerous criminals who must be beaten down with every tool available. Boris Johnson, the putative Prime Minister today urged the police to “use the full force of the law” against the protesters according to the Mirror.

Check out the video below, brought to our attention by CleanTechnica reader Dan Allard, to see the extent to which authorities will go in order to protect fossil fuel companies and the government sycophants they prop up with their political contributions.

The Metropolitan police said 10 people — seven women and three men — have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance, according to The Guardian. Apparently in the UK, a public nuisance is more threatening to the government than catastrophic climate change that could wipe out London as a major world city.

Caroline Vincent, a police liaison for Extinction Rebellion, says, “Police don’t want us to move equipment out which is considered infrastructure because they think it’s going to be used to commit a crime, and the crime is blocking the highway. So pita and pans are considered to be equipment that will be used to commit a crime; cushions too, apparently. The only things we are allowed to move away are first aid kits, milk and fliers.”

Activists said they were concerned at the police decision to act pre-emptively against them. Richard Ecclestone is a former police officer who has joined Extinction Rebellion. “These tactics are very questionable and are arguably infringing on our rights to peaceful protest, and indeed our efforts to preserve people’s right to life that is currently being jeopardized by the government failing to act on the climate and ecological emergency that they know exists,” he says. Activists say the police confiscated portable toilets, kitchen equipment, gazebos and big tents, cooking urns and big thermos flasks, 250-watt solar panels and 12v car batteries, food, waterproofs, umbrellas, and hot water bottles.

Wow! The government is terrified of solar panels, food, and umbrellas? How did these Nervous Nellies insinuate themselves into positions of power and why should taxpayers be forced to pay their salaries? The citizens of the UK are apparently supposed to stand by silently while their government aids those who would rape and pillage the Earth for their private profit. This scene from Oliver Twist should serve as an example to them of how to petition for redress of grievances properly.

In a statement after the police raid, Extinction Rebellion said, “This escalation of pre-emptive tactics by the government and police is a sign that we are being heard and acknowledged as a significant movement. We ask that the government focus their attention and resources on responding to the climate and ecological emergency which threatens us all.” Good luck with that.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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