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.
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”.
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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.
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.
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
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