As Extinction Rebellion halts disruption tactics, other groups vow to maintain radical methods

Extinction Rebellion protesters in London on Friday 19th April.
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As the Canary previously reported, Extinction Rebellion (XR) have announced a temporary halt to public disruption in the UK as they seek broader support, even as other activist groups vow to maintain radical tactics.

A loosely linked network that originated in the UK in 2018, Extinction Rebellion has pushed businesses and the government to take action on the climate crisis with eye-catching – but non-violent – acts of civil disobedience that have led to mass arrests.

XR has spawned more radical groups such as Insulate Britain and Just Stop Oil, whose recent stunts include throwing soup at the glass covering Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ in London’s National Gallery.

‘We quit’

In a surprise twist on New Year’s Eve, Extinction Rebellion announced in a post: “We quit”.

It said it was trying a different approach and would:

temporarily shift away from public disruption as a primary tactic.

Spokeswoman Marijn van de Geer concurred with an interviewer’s suggestion on a television chat show that the “tactics have alienated the public”.

Read on...

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We’ve listened to the public. They say over and over again, ‘We support what you stand for but we don’t like how you do it’.


Other related groups expressed solidarity but vowed to keep up disruptive tactics.

Just Stop Oil, which has blocked busy roads for hours by climbing onto gantries, responded by saying:

We must move from disobedience into civil resistance.

Insulate Britain, which is pushing the government to fix draughty housing, said its supporters “remain committed to civil resistance”.

Public disruption is vital to demand changes that governments are not willing or are too scared to address.

‘Brick wall’

Oscar Berglund, a lecturer at the University of Bristol who researches climate change activism, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that XR’s shift in tactics appears to be:

a way of trying to engage more people with less risky but still radical activism

He said Extinction Rebellion has long sought to direct protests not against the general public but at specific organisations, such as Rupert Murdoch’s media empire due to its reporting on climate change.

In recent years, XR activists in the UK have glued themselves to corporations’ doors, smashed windows, sprayed graffiti, blocked roads and bridges, and chained themselves to the gates of parliament.

Draconian pushback

James Ozden of the Social Change Lab research organisation said:

My hunch is that after several years of trying a similar approach… they had seen their tactics hit a brick wall.

He further suggested that by positioning themselves as more moderate than groups such as Just Stop Oil:

it’s very possible they will see increased support, as well as higher mobilisation than (at) recent events.

The government has responded to recent protests by toughening legislation to punish activists. However, Ozden stated that this was unlikely to be the driving factor in Extinction Rebellion’s shift.

There certainly has been increasing government repression towards non-violent protestors but this probably isn’t the main cause for this change in strategy.

Many activists are extremely committed, and willing to bear the legal consequences of their actions.

‘The Big One’

Extinction Rebellion is now seeking a turnout of 100,000 for a protest outside parliament starting on 21 April, called ‘The Big One’.

XR spokesperson Marijn van de Geer told ITV the shift in tactics was because the movement needs more people to demonstrate:

We need more people. We need the people who perhaps aren’t comfortable getting arrested.

You can read more about XR’s plan for ‘The Big One’ and how to get involved here.

Additional Reporting via AFP

Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons, resized to 770*403

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  • Show Comments
    1. I will support disruptive and harder hitting disruption till the masses open there eyes , The only reason disruptive tactics were even started by environmental groups is we have been peacefully doing is and being ignored for what 50 years ???? No wait more ????

    2. The ‘hard-hitting disruption’ you propose is profoundly undemocratic. If people wish to have enacted the policies espoused by XR, JSO or IB then there exists a legal, democratic option: vote for Green parties. Once in power such parties will indeed implement the policies that those pressure groups demand. Most people nowadays are aware of environmental, existential threats and they no doubt factor them into their decision-making when exercising their franchise. Yet the vast majority choose NOT to vote Green.
      The hard-hitting disruption that you advocate is a method by which you hope to bully and blackmail the electorate into accepting options that they currently reject at the ballot box.
      As I say, profoundly undemocratic.

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