Extinction Rebellion’s activists leverage disruption, arrests for climate action

“I feel like I’m doing the right thing,” said one protester. “I can’t imagine myself sitting back and watching the world collapse.”


Climate activists surround a pink boat during a protest near Oxford Circus London Underground station. CREDIT:BLOOMBERG

LONDON — Wielding a megaphone to rally protesters blocking a major road outside Parliament last month, Dr. Bing Jones was arrested for the fourth time since joining the eco-protest group Extinction Rebellion.

The arrests haven’t deterred him, however — in fact, Jones is now keen to adopt an even more disruptive approach.

“I will get arrested again and I’m willing to go to prison, because what are the alternatives?” Jones, 67, said. “It seems in a way kind of childish, but the fact is being polite just hasn’t worked.”

He is not alone: A coordinated series of demonstrations in 60 cities around the globe last month grabbed headlines. Some 1,832 people were arrested in London alone, according to the city’s Metropolitan Police, who said that £21 million ($27 million) were spent on policing the protests, which caused widespread disruption and delays as streets were crowded and public transport was brought to a halt.

London has become the natural home of these protests: More than 1,000 people were arrested during an 11-day campaign in April.

But rather than simply marching in the streets, Extinction Rebellion, also known as XR, aims to force governments to respond to the climate crisis by using nonviolent civil disobedience. The group’s uncompromising tactics include blocking traffic, grounding flights and gluing themselves to public buildings and to each other.

Despite the risk of arrests, XR has spread worldwide and includes some unlikely supporters — including seniors, doctors and religious leaders.

But as the group’s tactics has made waves, questions remain over whether the public will embrace its extreme goals and disruptive behavior.

Image: Climate protesters block Millbank in central London
Extinction Rebellion protesters block roads in central London on Oct. 7 as part of a wide-ranging series of global demonstrations demanding new climate policies.Matt Dunham / AP file

 

XR launched its first major demonstrations in Britain in November 2018 when hundreds of activists shut down bridges in central London to spread its core message that climate change is not only threatening ecological collapse but human extinction.

The movement demands that governments “tell the truth” about climate change, ensure that net-zero emissions are achieved by 2025 and establish a citizens’ assembly to inform how the transition should happen.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May, in one of her last acts before stepping down in July, pledged that the U.K. would reach net-zero emissions by 2050, one of the most ambitious targets of any leading economy, showing how bold XR’s demand is.

In the wake of a 2018 United Nations report warning of the consequences if the planet warms above 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit and the Fridays for Future student climate strikes, popularized by Greta Thunberg, the stage was set for a movement like XR to take off, said Alexander Hensby, a sociologist at the University of Kent in southeast England.

From India to Chile, people around the world have embraced the decentralized, leaderless movement by setting up local chapters to coordinate demonstrations.

“The very fact that we’re still talking about Extinction Rebellion now, the fact that we have this ongoing period of mass protest, is a testament to their ability to keep climate change pretty high up the media agenda,” Hensby said. SOURCE

‘We Must Grow This Movement’: Youth Climate Activists Ramp Up the Pressure

From school strikes to the harder edge of Extinction Rebellion, young climate activists are making their voices heard, and they’re increasingly politically engaged.

Hundreds of youth climate activists and their supporters staged a climate strike protest outside of Chevron headquarters in San Ramon, California, in September 2019. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Hundreds of young climate activists and their supporters staged a climate strike outside of Chevron headquarters in San Ramon, California, in September calling for the oil company to abandon fossil fuels by 2025. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A new wave of climate protests hit cities around the world this week—this time aimed at shocking people with civil disobedience, fake blood on the pavement and bodies lying in the streets under signs that read: “Stop funding climate death.”

The Extinction Rebellion demonstrations have a harder edge than the student-led climate strikes that have brought millions to their feet around the world demanding leaders do more to slow climate change. While the school climate strikes end with students returning to class, these protests have often led to arrests.

But both show how young people are reinvigorating the social movement for climate action on a scale never seen before, and their organizers plan to keep up the pressure until more is done to slow climate change.

That widespread youth activism is also empowering more young people to turn their protests into political action, from pressuring lawmakers and businesses to take action to energizing voters.

The Extinction Rebellion activists and the school strikers are both decentralized coalitions that are giving young people a way to stand up for their future. Between them, the groups have a long list of school strikes, rallies and acts of civil disobedience planned through the rest of the year, including a major youth climate strike planned for Nov. 29, Black Friday, known for holiday shopping in the United States.

Alexandria Villaseñor, a 14-year-old climate activist from New York who founded Earth Uprising and is an organizer with the school climate strike group Fridays for Future, is emblematic of their determination. She announced last month that she would be taking her school education on the road as she tours the country to continue organizing climate strikes.

“I’ll be traveling and striking in a different city, or maybe even a different country, every Friday,” she wrote on Twitter. “We must grow this movement. We must get real action.”

Building on Social Justice Movements

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist who launched the Fridays for Future school walkouts, may have galvanized the global youth climate movement when she started her humble strikes in front of the Swedish Parliament last year, but it has been building for years.

In the U.S., the movement really learned from and built upon past civil rights and social justice movements, where tactics such as marching in the streets and occupying places of commerce or political power were used.

That’s one of the reasons the Green New Deal—the climate policy goals that the young Sunrise Movement activists brought to the halls of Congress—explicitly addresses building economic and political space for the most vulnerable communities affected by climate change as society transitions to a new energy economy, said Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, the North America director for the climate activist group 350.org. It’s also why the movement must explicitly connect social justice and climate work moving forward.

For some youth in the climate movement, the idea of addressing socioeconomic and racial disparities in the U.S. is a big part of their involvement.

“Young people of color, like myself, are affected by climate change most,” said Nyiesha Mallett, an 18-year-old climate activist from New York who is part Afro-Caribbean. “I should be one of the people who gets to come up with solutions.”

Ramping Up Local Fights

Climate groups in the U.S. are working to channel that youthful energy toward local policy battles, where they see higher chances of success.

In Washington state, young activists have joined a broad coalition pushing for a clean energy transition in the state, fighting for and, in many cases, winning ambitious policy battles, including the state’s target to reach 100 percent clean energy by 2045, the strongest clean electricity law in the nation.

“It’s not just taking back the White House and the Senate, not just passing federal legislation to address the crisis, but really making sure that we go deep on local … actions,” Toles O’Laughlin said.

That’s one reason 17-year-old Mariana Rodriguez from San Francisco joined the youth climate strikes last month, after seeing how climate change was impacting her state’s forests. “November is known as fire season,” she said. “And with all the fires that’s been happening around here, I can’t ignore something that’s happening right in front of me.”

The global youth climate marches on Sept. 20, 2019, brought millions of people into the streets in cities around the world. Young people in New York City marched through Wall Street. Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The global youth climate marches on Sept. 20, 2019, brought millions of people into the streets in cities around the world. Young people in New York City marched through Wall Street. Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In other parts of the country where support for climate action is less popular, activists in the climate movement are working to simply get elected officials to formally adopt statewide action plans. MORE

RELATED:

Fourth global climate strike planned days before UN climate summit

 

 

Extinction Rebellion Making Things Inconvenient? Actually, Says Naomi Klein, the Climate Crisis ‘Is Really, Really Inconvenient’

“There is nothing more inconvenient than being hit by a Category 5 hurricane, by having a wildfire raze your town.”

Writer George Monbiot is arrested by police officers after being arrested in Trafalgar Square on October 16, 2019 in London.
Writer George Monbiot is arrested by police officers after being arrested in Trafalgar Square on October 16, 2019 in London. Activists held an emergency people’s assembly in Trafalgar Square following a ban on Extinction Rebellion protests in London. (Photo: Peter Summers/Getty Images)

As Extinction Rebellion activists in London on Wednesday ramped up their latest mobilization with a tenth consecutive day of action, author Naomi Klein pushed back against criticism of the climate protesters and said the climate crisis itself is what’s truly disruptive.

In an interview with Sky News presenter Adam Boulton posted Wednesday, Klein refuted the notion that “a lot of action” to address the climate crisis is “being taken by politicians,” saying their lack of sufficient action is what has drawn youth climate and Extinction Rebellion activists into the streets across the world in recent weeks.

“If standing up against the climate and ecological breakdown and for humanity is against the rules, then the rules must be broken.”
—Greta Thunberg
The interview came as the global mobilization—which has blocked major roads and bridges in their bid to demand greenhouse gas emissions go down to net zero by 2025—staged a number of actions on Wednesday in defiance of a London-wide ban.

Extinction Rebellion has also announced that several affinity groups plan to disrupt Tube services on Thursday. “In any other circumstances,” the group said in a statement, “these groups would never dream of disrupting the Tube but this is an emergency.”

Boulton, in his interview with Klein, said the climate activists put others in a position such that their “route to work is being obstructed” and said XR was “trying to shut down the Tube system.”

“Yes, it’s inconveniencing people,” said Klein. “As somebody who has covered natural disasters that are fueled by climate change for 15 years—there is nothing more inconvenient than being hit by a Category 5 hurricane, by having a wildfire raze your town.”

“Let me tell you how inconvenient it is for the people in Paradise, California, 14,000 of whom lost their homes,” she continued. “Climate change is really, really inconvenient. And so if people have to deal with this inconvenience of some protests in London to get the attention of politicians who have been focused on a singular way on the emergency of Brexit, then so be it.”

London Metropolitan Police this week issued an order banning “any assembly linked to the Extinction Rebellion ‘Autumn Uprising'” within city.

One of Wednesday’s actions was a “people’s assembly” in Trafalgar Square in which roughly 2,500 activists gathered to strategize responses to what they say is the government’s continued inaction on the climate crisis. Among those in the square detained by police was journalist and activist George Monbiot:

MORE

Extinction Rebellion protests: Green Party co-leader arrested as protesters win right to fight ‘unlawful’ police ban in court

Climate activists win go-ahead to mount legal action against Metropolitan Police 

The co-leader of the Green Party Jonathan Bartley was among more than 1,500 Extinction Rebellion activists arrested as the group continued its protests in defiance of a police ban.

Activists have been granted the go-ahead for legal action against London’s Metropolitan Police to challenge the public order banning more than two climate activists convening anywhere in the city. The hearing is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

Politicians, human-rights groups and leading environmental figures including Greta Thunberg have condemned the ban as “unlawful” and “draconian”.

Meanwhile, mothers and babies from the group are blockading the of Google HQ to demand the tech giant stops funding climate deniers, as teenage protesters climb the entrance of Youtube HQ.

Other demonstrators blocked roads around Trafalgar Square, and some protested outside the offices of The Times and The Sun.

Lawyers for Extinction Rebellion submit judicial review of police ban 
Lawyers for Extinction Rebellion have submitted an application for judicial review of the Metropolitan Police’s ban on their protests to the High Court for urgent hearing later today.
Last night Greta Thunberg condemned the Metropolitan Police’s ban of the Extinction Rebellion protests in London as “unlawful”.
“If standing up against the climate and ecological breakdown and for humanity is against the rules then the rules must be broken,” she added.
The 16-year-old climate activist previously spoke at the group’s protests in April.

MORE

The big polluters’ masterstroke was to blame the climate crisis on you and me

Fossil fuel giants have known the harm they do for decades. But they created a system that absolves them of responsibility


 Illustration: Eva Bee

Let’s stop calling this the Sixth Great Extinction. Let’s start calling it what it is: the “first great extermination”. A recent essay by the environmental historian Justin McBrien argues that describing the current eradication of living systems (including human societies) as an extinction event makes this catastrophe sound like a passive accident.

While we are all participants in the first great extermination, our responsibility is not evenly shared. The impacts of most of the world’s people are minimal. Even middle-class people in the rich world, whose effects are significant, are guided by a system of thought and action that is shaped in large part by corporations. 

The Guardian’s polluters series reports that just 20 fossil fuel companies, some owned by states, some by shareholders, have produced 35% of the carbon dioxide and methane released by human activities since 1965. This was the year in which the president of the American Petroleum Institute told his members that the carbon dioxide they produced could cause “marked changes in climate” by the year 2000. They knew what they were doing.


BP’s oil refinery complex in Grangemouth, central Scotland. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

A paper published in Nature shows that we have little chance of preventing more than 1.5C of global heating unless existing fossil fuel infrastructure is retired. Instead the industry intends to accelerate production, spending nearly $5tn in the next 10 years on developing new reserves. It is committed to ecocide.

But the biggest and most successful lie it tells is this: that the first great extermination is a matter of consumer choice. In response to the Guardian’s questions, some of the oil companies argued that they are not responsible for our decisions to use their products. But we are embedded in a system of their creation – a political, economic and physical infrastructure that creates an illusion of choice while, in reality, closing it down.

We are guided by an ideology so familiar and pervasive that we do not even recognise it as an ideology. It is called consumerism. It has been crafted with the help of skilful advertisers and marketers, by corporate celebrity culture, and by a media that casts us as the recipients of goods and services rather than the creators of political reality. It is locked in by transport, town planning and energy systems that make good choices all but impossible. It spreads like a stain through political systems, which have been systematically captured by lobbying and campaign finance, until political leaders cease to represent us, and work instead for the pollutocrats who fund them.

In such a system, individual choices are lost in the noise. Attempts to organise boycotts are notoriously difficult, and tend to work only when there is a narrow and immediate aim. The ideology of consumerism is highly effective at shifting blame: witness the current ranting in the billionaire press about the alleged hypocrisy of environmental activists. Everywhere I see rich westerners blaming planetary destruction on the birth rates of much poorer people, or on “the Chinese”. This individuation of responsibility, intrinsic to consumerism, blinds us to the real drivers of destruction.

A protester is detained during an Extinction Rebellion demonstration in Whitehall, London. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters Pinterest 

The power of consumerism is that it renders us powerless. It traps us within a narrow circle of decision-making, in which we mistake insignificant choices between different varieties of destruction for effective change. It is, we must admit, a brilliant con.

It’s the system we need to change, rather than the products of the system. It is as citizens that we must act, rather than as consumers. But how? Part of the answer is provided in a short book published by one of the founders of Extinction Rebellion, Roger Hallam, called Common Sense for the 21st Century. I don’t agree with everything it says, but the rigour and sweep of its analysis will, I think, ensure that it becomes a classic of political theory.

It begins with the premise that gradualist campaigns making small demands cannot prevent the gathering catastrophes of climate and ecological breakdown. Only mass political disruption, out of which can be built new and more responsive democratic structures, can d

By studying successful mobilisations, such as the Children’s March in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 (which played a critical role in ending racial segregation in the US), the Monday Demonstrations in Leipzig in 1989 (which snowballed until they helped bring down the East German regime), and the Jana Andolan movement in Nepal in 2006 (which brought down the absolute power of the monarchy and helped end the armed insurgency), Hallam has developed a formula for effective “dilemma actions”. A dilemma action is one that puts the authorities in an awkward position. Either the police allow civil disobedience to continue, thereby encouraging more people to join, or they attack the protesters, creating a powerful “symbolism of fearless sacrifice”, thereby encouraging more people to join. If you get it right, the authorities can’t win.

Among the crucial common elements, he found, are assembling thousands of people in the centre of the capital city, maintaining a strictly nonviolent discipline, focusing on the government and continuing for days or weeks at a time. Radical change, his research reveals, “is primarily a numbers game. Ten thousand people breaking the law has historically had more impact than small-scale, high-risk activism.” The key challenge is to organise actions that encourage as many people as possible to join. This means they should be openly planned, inclusive, entertaining, peaceful and actively respectful. You can join such an action today, convened by Extinction Rebellion in central London.

Hallam’s research suggests that this approach offers at least a possibility of breaking the infrastructure of lies the fossil fuel companies have created, and developing a politics matched to the scale of the challenges we face. It is difficult and uncertain of success. But, he points out, the chances that politics as usual will meet our massive predicament with effective action are zero. Mass dilemma actions could be our last, best chance of preventing the great extermination. SOURCE

 

CAN EXTINCTION REBELLION BUILD A U.S. CLIMATE MOVEMENT BIG ENOUGH TO SAVE THE EARTH?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK– OCTOBER 7, 2019: The environmental group Extinction Rebellion (commonly referred to as XR) stage a "die in" at the Charging Bull. XR lead a group of protesters in marching and action in Manhattan on Monday. Numerous members were arrested.
The environmental group Extinction Rebellion staged a “die-in” at the Charging Bull statue in Manhattan on Oct. 7, 2019. Photo: Hilary Swift for The Intercept

A CROWD OF about 200 black-clad members of the climate activist group Extinction Rebellion gathered Monday morning at the southern end of New York City’s financial district. Some held banners painted with ghostly white animals or cardboard cutouts of trees and waves. In the background, a New Orleans-style jazz funeral band warmed up tubas, and one of the march’s emcees instructed people on the proper way to wail. (“Dig down and pull out your grief — because you gotta cry!”)

At the head of the procession, 20-year-old Ayisha Siddiqa took the megaphone. She explained how she’d come to the U.S. from a poor part of Pakistan when she was 5 years old and had lost family members as a result of frequent power outages, which are expected to increase globally as the climate crisis deepens. Attention turned to Richard McLachlan, a 68-year-old New Zealander, as he and another activist began reading Extinction Rebellion’s declaration of rebellion.

“The science is clear: We are in the sixth mass extinction event, and we will face catastrophe if we do not act swiftly and robustly,” the activists said. “We, in alignment with our consciences and our reasoning, declare ourselves in rebellion against our government and the corrupted, inept institutions that threaten our future.” It was the kickoff to an event dubbed Rebellion Week, part of an international series of XR actions.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK– OCTOBER 7, 2019: Performers with Bread and Puppet Theater wait in Battery Park before the environmental group Extinction Rebellion (commonly referred to as XR). On monday they lead a group of protesters in marching and action in Manhattan. Numerous members were arrested while blocking roads and performing "die-ins."Performers with Bread and Puppet Theater wait in Battery Park before the start of Monday’s protest with XR.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK– OCTOBER 7, 2019: The environmental group Extinction Rebellion (commonly referred to as XR) stage a die-in  on the street in front of the New York Stock Exchange. XR lead a group of protesters in marching and action in Manhattan on Monday. Numerous members were arrested.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK– OCTOBER 7, 2019: The environmental group Extinction Rebellion (commonly referred to as XR) stages a die-in  on the street in front of the New York Stock Exchange. XR lead a group of protesters in marching and action in Manhattan on Monday. Numerous members were arrested.

The environmental group Extinction Rebellion stages a die-in at the Charging Bull statue in Manhattan on Oct. 7, 2019.Photos: Hilary Swift for The Intercept

As the group started moving out of the park, a figure appeared in the distance, waving Extinction Rebellion’s green flag from atop Wall Street’s charging bull statue. Dyed red corn syrup oozed down the bull’s back, and activists wearing white shirts splattered with fake blood played dead at the animal’s feet.

By sunset, police had arrested 700 people across the globe for participation in actions under XR’s banner, including 93 “die-in” participants in New York. That was the point. By getting arrested in visually compelling acts of civil disobedience inspired by Gandhi, the civil rights movement, and ACT UP, Extinction Rebellion hopes to jolt world leaders into taking action on the climate emergency.

Since the movement was born in the United Kingdom one year ago, it has grown to a network of at least 485 groups in 72 countries. Many observers have responded with a reaction similar to the one elicited by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg: Finally, someone is truthfully confronting scientists’ apocalyptic climate forecasts with the urgency they deserve. MORE

 

Climate rebels open new fronts across capital as protests escalate

Activists block trade at Billingsgate fish market and target headquarters of energy company Shell to ‘raise awareness’

 An Extinction Rebellion demonstration in Brussels on Saturday. Photograph: Isopix/REX/Shutterstock

Climate protesters on Saturday intensified efforts to disrupt life in London, and targeted sites including Billingsgate fish market and Shell’s headquarters. They said police took at least 28 of their supporters into custody. That number means that more than 1,200 Extinction Rebellion activists have been arrested in London since their protests, over the government’s “failure” to act over climate change, were launched last Monday.

And those detained include Belgian Princess Esméralda who was taken into a police van for questioning and held for about five hours after she joined a sit-in at Trafalgar Square on Thursday. “The more people from all sections of society protest, the greater the impact will be,” the 63-year-old said. Other protests launched on Saturday included one by more than 50 healthcare professionals – wearing scrubs and singing the Extinction Rebellion anthem – who gathered outside Shell’s headquarters before they marched to Parliament Square. “We are meeting outside Shell because they are one of the biggest companies involved in the oil and energy industry, and they have real power to decarbonise that industry,” said Alex Turner, 36, a paediatric and emergency doctor from Bristol. “We are protesting illegal levels of air pollution.”

Julia Simons, 23, a final-year medical student at Cambridge University, said: “Our government has the responsibility to explain [climate science] to its citizens, to understand that if they don’t act radically, that future which I’ve been studying for won’t exist.” Hundreds of protesters remained camped in Trafalgar Square, where police were continuing efforts to remove them and the roadblock they had set up in Westminster.

Similar protests took place in many other countries. Dutch police arrested 130 activists in Amsterdam after they blocked a bridge in the centre of the city. Some protesters slumped on hammocks hung from pillars supporting the bridge to prevent boats from passing underneath.

In France, hundreds of activists blocked a route to the national assembly in Paris for several hours but were later dispersed by police. In Brussels, demonstrators occupied the gardens of the royal palace while in Melbourne protesters said they would hold a “spring rebellion” of civil disobedience this week including blocking traffic.

 Doctors gather to protest in support of Extinction Rebellion in London. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Pinterest

At the same time, a petition calling for non-violent protest to be maintained to ensure action is taken to tackle climate change has been signed by more than 300 scientists and environmentalists. “We have an obligation that extends beyond merely describing and understanding the natural world to taking an active part in helping to protect it,” the petition states. “The scientific community has already tried all conventional methods to draw attention to the crisis. We believe continued governmental inaction over the climate and ecological crisis now justifies peaceful and non-violent protest and direct action, even if this goes beyond the bounds of the current law. We believe it is our moral duty to act now, and we urge other scientists to join us in helping to protect humanity’s only home.”

District judge John Zani granted Brown conditional bail, prohibiting him from going within one mile of any airport in the UK.

Brown – who participated in five Paralympic Games and won two gold medals and a bronze – told reporters he was “relieved” to be out of custody. “I am not denying what I did, but I was compelled to do what I did because of my concerns for the future of my children,” he added.

The protest at Billingsgate, the UK’s largest inland fish market, by Extinction Rebellion’s animal rebellion chapter began early on Saturday when protesters blocked the entrance. One demonstrator locked herself to the gate. Police initially tried to prevent the protesters from reaching the market but relented after negotiations, the group said.

“At London’s Billingsgate market, thousands of fish, stolen daily from their ocean homes, lie dead or dying,” said Kerri Waters, a spokesperson for Animal Rebellion. “Many will have suffocated slowly when pulled aboard fishing vessels, while thousands of others remain alive as they’re transported by lorry to the market, where they’ll be gutted or boiled alive.” SOURCE