Extinction Rebellion

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Extinction Rebellion
Extinction-rebellion.jpg
Named afterAnthropocene extinction
MottoRebel for life
Formation31 October 2018; 7 months ago (2018-10-31)
TypeCivil society campaign
PurposeClimate change mitigation
Nature conservation
Environmental protection
Region
International
MethodsNonviolent direct action
FieldsConservation movement
Environmental movement
AffiliationsRising Up![1]
The Climate Mobilization[2]
Websitexrebellion.org

Extinction Rebellion (abbreviated as XR) is a socio-political movement which uses nonviolent resistance to protest against climate breakdown, biodiversity loss, and the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse.[1][3][4]

Extinction Rebellion was established in the United Kingdom in May 2018 with about one hundred academics signing a call to action in support in October 2018,[5] and launched at the end of October by Roger Hallam, Gail Bradbrook, Simon Bramwell, and other activists from the campaign group Rising Up![6] In November 2018 various acts of civil disobedience were carried out in London.[7] In April 2019 XR occupied four prominent sites in central London: Oxford Circus, Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge and the area around Parliament Square.

Citing inspiration from grassroots movements such as Occupy, Gandhi's independence movement, the suffragettes, Martin Luther King and others in the civil rights movement, Extinction Rebellion wants to rally support worldwide around a common sense of urgency to tackle climate breakdown.[8][7] A large number of activists in the movement have pledged to be arrested, and even to go to prison,[9] similar to the mass arrest tactics of the Committee of 100 in 1961.

The movement uses a circled hourglass as a symbol to serve as a warning that time is rapidly running out for many species.[10][11]

Manifesto[edit]

Extinction Rebellion placard. Its logo with the "extinction symbol".

Demands[edit]

Extinction Rebellion's website states its aims as:[12][1][13]

  • "The Government must tell the truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency, reverse inconsistent policies and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens.
  • The Government must enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels.
  • A national Citizens' assembly to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose."

Stated principles[edit]

XR state the following on its website and explain in a declaration:[14][4]

  1. "We have a shared vision of change – creating a world that is fit for generations to come.
  2. We set our mission on what is necessary – mobilising 3.5% of the population to achieve system change – using ideas such as "momentum-driven organising" to achieve this.
  3. We need a regenerative culture – creating a culture which is healthy, resilient and adaptable.
  4. We openly challenge ourselves and this toxic system – leaving our comfort zones to take action for change.
  5. 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.
  6. We welcome everyone and every part of everyone – working actively to create safer and more accessible spaces.
  7. We actively mitigate for power – breaking down hierarchies of power for more equitable participation.
  8. We avoid blaming and shaming – we live in a toxic system, but no one individual is to blame.
  9. We are a non-violent network – using non-violent strategy and tactics as the most effective way to bring about change.
  10. We are based on autonomy and decentralisation – 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!"[15]

Support[edit]

On 26 October 2018, approximately one hundred academics signed a call to action supporting the movement.[5] On 9 December 2018, a second open letter of support signed by another hundred academics was published.[16]

During the 'International Rebellion' which started on 15 April 2019, actions and messages of support arrived from various sources, including a speech by actress Emma Thompson, a planned visit by school strike leader Greta Thunberg, and statements from former Nasa scientist James Hansen and linguist and activist Noam Chomsky.[17]

UK actions[edit]

2018[edit]

On 17 October 2018, activists from Extinction Rebellion held a sit-in at the UK headquarters of Greenpeace, the direct action environmental organisation, "to encourage their members to participate in mass civil disobedience as the only remaining alternative to avert the worst of the catastrophe" and join in future activities of Extinction Rebellion.[1][19]

'Declaration of Rebellion'[edit]

An assembly took place at Parliament Square, London on 31 October 2018, and drew more than a thousand people to hear the "Declaration of Rebellion"[20] against the UK government and speeches by Donnachadh McCarthy, 15-year-old Greta Thunberg, the Swedish schoolgirl "on strike" from school over her own government's climate inaction,[21] Julia Bradbury, and Green MEP Molly Scott Cato in the square.[20] After a motion was proposed and agreed, the assembly moved to occupy the road, where Green MP Caroline Lucas, environmentalist George Monbiot, and other speakers and singers, including Seize the Day, continued from the reclaimed street directly in front of the Houses of Parliament.[20][a] Following this, 15 campaigners were arrested for deliberately continuing the sit-in in the roadway.[20]

In the first two weeks of the movement in November 2018, more than 60 people were arrested for taking part in acts of civil disobedience organised by Extinction Rebellion.[7] On 12 November 2018, activists blockaded the UK's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and some glued their hands to the department's doors.[22] Activists unveiled a "Climate Change... We're Fucked" banner over Westminster Bridge[23] and glued themselves to the gates of Downing Street, near the Prime Minister's official residence, on 14 November.[24][25]

'Rebellion Day'[edit]

"Rebellion Day" on Blackfriars Bridge, 17 November 2018

On 17 November 2018, in what was called "Rebellion Day", about 6,000 people took part in a coordinated action to block the five main bridges over the River Thames in London (Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo, Westminster, and Lambeth) for several hours, causing major traffic disruption; 70 arrests were made.[7][26][27][28][29] The Guardian described it as "one of the biggest acts of peaceful civil disobedience in the UK in decades".[7][18] YBA artist Gavin Turk was one of the activists arrested for obstructing the public highway.[30][31] Internationally there was an action by the XR group in Stockholm,[32] as well as rallies in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Belfast. Copenhagen, Berlin, Madrid and New York City.[33]

Extinction Rebellion protesters in Tower Hill, 23 November 2018

From 21 November 2018, beginning a campaign known as 'swarming' roadblocks (repeated roadblocks of approximately 7 minutes each), small groups of Extinction Rebellion activists carried out protests by occupying road junctions at Lambeth and Vauxhall Bridges, Elephant and Castle, Tower Bridge and Earl's Court, causing serious disruption to rush-hour traffic and continuing throughout the day.[18][34][35][36][37][38] Similar actions continued for the next two days in London,[39] with one group moving to Oxford Street on the afternoon of the discount shopping day Black Friday.[40]

On 23 November, in a first action outside London, an Extinction Rebellion group in York stopped traffic on Coppergate, Clifford Street, Pavement and Ouse Bridge, as well as holding a demo outside West Offices of the City of York Council.[41][42] An Oxford XR group blocked traffic on Botley Road on the same day.[43]

'Rebellion Day 2'[edit]

On "Rebellion Day 2", a week after the first, Extinction Rebellion blocked the roads around Parliament Square, before a mock funeral march to Downing Street and then onto Buckingham Palace.[44] XR co-founder Gail Bradbrook read out a letter to the Queen, and one activist glued herself to the gates of the Palace, before the procession returned to Parliament Square.[45] On 24 November there were actions outside London by XR groups in Manchester,[46] Sheffield,[47] Machynlleth[48] and Edinburgh.[49]

On 15 December 2018, a professor of psychology was arrested for a "climate change graffiti attack" on the Bristol Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) building,[50][51][52] and a "die-in" was held at a local shopping center.[53]

On 21 December 2018, actions were staged at BBC locations across the UK by Extinction Rebellion calling for a change in editorial policy, perceiving a "failure to report" on the "climate emergency." BBC headquarters in London was placed on lockdown.[54][55][56]

2019[edit]

January council actions[edit]

On 25 January 2019, about 40 members of Extinction Rebellion staged a peaceful one-hour occupation of the Scottish Parliament's debating chamber in Holyrood, Edinburgh.[57] Council chambers were also occupied by XR groups in Norwich on 11 February,[58] and Gloucestershire, on 13 February, which included a mock trial of the council's "criminal negligence".[59] A week later neighbouring Somerset County Council declared a climate emergency, citing school strikers and XR as having some input into the decision.[60] In late February, following an XR petition, Reading Borough Council also declared a climate emergency,[61] aiming to cut carbon emissions by 2030, a week after discussions with the XR Reading (XRR) group[62] and a day after the warmest winter day on record in the UK.[63]

February – London Fashion Week[edit]

An Extinction Rebellion march during the London Fashion Week in London, 22 February 2019

During London Fashion Week in February, Extinction Rebellion organised actions to disrupt events, calling on the British Fashion Council organisers to declare a 'climate emergency' and for the industry to take a leading role in tackling climate change.[64] 'Swarming' roadblocks were held outside several venues; a couple of rebels wore living grass coats.[65] Later in the week, designer and XR co-founder Clare Farrell, was barred from a fashion show by a label in which she had been involved with production.[66]

March[edit]

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the Portsmouth City Council, joining in an Extinction Rebellion protest in Portsmouth, 19 March 2019

On 9 March 2019, around 400 protesters staged a "Blood of Our Children" demonstration outside No. 10 Downing Street, in which they poured buckets of fake blood on the road to represent the threatened lives of children.[67] As Portsmouth City Council passed a climate emergency motion, the 49th in the UK, protestors confronted leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson outside Portsmouth Guildhall.[68]

House of Commons naked demonstration[edit]

On 1 April 2019, around 12 protesters were arrested after undressing and gluing themselves to the glass in the House of Commons viewing gallery during a debate on Britain's intended departure from the European Union, with two of the protesters wearing grey body paint and elephant masks to draw attention to "the elephant in the room".[69] XR activists attributed inspiration for the direct action to a suffragette protest in Parliament in 1909, when (non-nude) protesters chained themselves to statues.[70]

Mid-April occupations[edit]

Video of an interview with the Extinction Rebellion protesters in London, 19 April 2019

Starting from Monday 15 April 2019, Extinction Rebellion organised demonstrations in London, focusing their attention on Oxford Circus, Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge and the area around Parliament Square.[71] Activists fixed a pink boat named after murdered Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres in the middle of the busy intersection of Oxford Street and Regent Street (Oxford Circus) and glued themselves to it,[17][72] and also set up several gazebos, potted plants and trees, a mobile stage and a skate ramp whilst occupying Waterloo Bridge.[73][74] Five activists, including XR co-founder Simon Bramwell, were arrested for criminal damage when they targeted Shell's headquarters, near Waterloo.[73] After the police imposed a 24-hour Section 14 condition at 18:55 requiring activists to move to Marble Arch[75] the police tried to clear Waterloo Bridge arresting 113 people, without gaining control of the bridge.[76][77]

On the second day of actions on Waterloo Bridge police began making arrests of the activists at 12.40 pm,[78] but stopped a few hours later,[79] after running out of holding cells.[80] By the end of Tuesday 16 April an estimated 500,000 people had been affected by the disruptions and 290 activists had been arrested in London.[81] In Scotland, more than 1,000 protesters occupied the North Bridge for seven hours in Edinburgh, bringing one of the main routes into the city centre to a standstill. Police said they made 29 arrests.[82][83]

On the morning of Wednesday 17 April two activists climbed onto the roof of a Docklands Light Railway train at Canary Wharf station whilst another glued himself to the side, spreading disruption to railway services.[84] The following day the three activists were charged with obstructing trains and after pleading not guilty sent to jail for four weeks, with no bail, whilst awaiting their next hearing.[85] In response to the protests, the British Transport Police suspended access to public Wi-Fi at London Underground stations the same day.[86][87][88] Towards the end of Wednesday a large force of police marched on the camp at Parliament Square, arresting people and partially removing roadblocks[89] before it was retaken later the same night by protesters who arrived with a samba band and re-established the roadblocks.[90]

At the start of Thursday 18 April, the fourth day of continuous occupations at four locations, the arrest figure had risen to 428, the majority for breaching public order laws and obstructing a highway.[91][17] During the morning of 18 April about 20 XR activists spread traffic disruption wider with a series of swarming (short duration) roadblocks on Vauxhall Bridge.[92]

A mural appeared at Marble Arch after the closing ceremony on 25 April and this was attributed to the artist Banksy.[93][94] The slogan "From this moment despair ends and tactics begin" is a quotation from The Revolution of Everyday Life.[95]

On the morning of 19 April, after significant media speculation about a threat to Heathrow Airport,[96][97][98] around a dozen teenagers, some aged 13 and 14, approached the access road holding a banner which read “Are we the last generation?” Some of the teenagers wept and hugged each other, as they were surrounded by a far larger squad of police.[99][100][72] In the middle of the day police moved in force to surround the pink boat as Emma Thompson read poetry from the deck, eventually removing the people who were either locked-on or glued to it. After seven hours police had moved the boat without clearing Oxford Circus.[17][101] By late evening police were saying that 682 people had been arrested in London.[72]

On 25 April 13 protesters blocked the London Stock Exchange, and held the LED sign outside the stock. Despite this, the operation of the market was not affected. Another 4 protesters climbed on to a Docklands Light Railway train at Canary Wharf, and held the banners, which resulted in a short delay between Bank and Monument station and Stratford/Lewisham station. 26 people were arrested.[102] In the afternoon, the activists gathered at the Hyde Park as the "closing ceremony" of the movement, which ended the 11-day demonstrations in London. A total of 1,130 people were arrested during the demonstrations.[103]

Actions elsewhere[edit]

"Declaration Day" at the Victorian State Government, 22 March 2019

Extinction Rebellion Australia held a 'Declaration Day' on 22 March 2019 in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, and Brisbane. Demonstrators assembled and protested to demand that governments and media declare a state of climate emergency. On the eve of international Rebellion Day, 15 April, an XR group occupied the Parliament's Lower House.[104]

Extinction Rebellion events were planned for the week starting Monday 15 April 2019, in 27 other[clarification needed] countries including Ireland, Australia, Canada, France, Sweden, Germany, Colombia, New Zealand[7][105][106] and in New York City for a national day of action for the United States.[107]

On 15 April, XR activists occupied part of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, forming human chains before being arrested.[108] Similar actions were organised by XR groups in Berlin, Heidelberg, Brussels, Lausanne, Madrid[109], Denver and Melbourne.[110] In New York City, on Wednesday 17 April, an XR group of 300 gathered outside City Hall to demand that the City Council declare a climate emergency with over 60 arrested after occupying the street and hanging banners from the lamposts.[111][112] On Friday 19 April XR activists disrupted a railway line in Brisbane, Australia.[113]

Public support[edit]

A study conducted during the first two days of the mid-April London occupation found that 46% of respondents supported the rebellion,[114] however a larger opinion poll later found that support had declined and that 52% of respondents now opposed the protest,[115] as the protests on 17 April blocked access to means of transport including buses, alienating locals.[116][117]

Criticism[edit]

The movement has been criticised by some for making unrealistic demands.[118] The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, which supports its course of strong action and demands, said that the timeframe being urged by XR was "...an ambition that technically, economically and politically has absolutely no chance of being fulfilled." They calculated that to go net zero by 2025, flying would need to be scrapped and 38 million cars (both petrol and diesel) would need to be removed from the roads. In addition, 26 million gas boilers would need to be disconnected in six years.[119]

American philosopher and animal rights advocate Gary L. Francione criticised the movement for refusing to promote veganism as a solution to climate change, and for adopting the "personal/political" distinction[clarification needed] which he says "every progressive movement for the past 50 years has rejected because common sense tells us that you cannot ignore the role of the individual in creating and perpetuating social problems".[120]

Bibliography[edit]

  • This Is Not a Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook, Penguin Books, June 2019 (ISBN 9780141991443).

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "XR Declaration" from 1hr 39m 15s; see "XR Declaration" in the External links section.

References[edit]

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