The British division of climate activist group Extinction Rebellion has announced that they will no longer be using public disruption as a primary tactic in their campaigns. This comes as a marked shift, with disruption having been one of the main platforms the group used in the past to get their message out. Here are some of the main takeaways as Extinction Rebellion changes their tactics.
This year alone, several XR protests have involved blocking traffic, preventing commuters from reaching their places of work as a way of raising awareness for the impact of fossil fuels on the environment. These protests have led to several arrests. Several other acts have sparked headlines, with protestors glueing themselves to the speaker’s chair in the House of Commons, blocking the Tower Bridge in London, smashing windows at Barclays bank headquarters and disrupting Shell Plc’s annual meeting. The public had mixed reactions, with many expressing frustration with the protestors, especially when they blocked motorways. They did succeed in gaining a huge audience and widespread media attention.
The announcement, which bore the title ‘We quit,’ expressed dissatisfaction with way that CO2 emissions have continued to rise through the four years the organisation has been protesting, and articulated the need for a new strategy in light of this. Contrary to what the title implies, the group is not giving up on advocacy. According to the statement, they intend to forego roadblocks, at least for the time being, in favour of winning more support and gaining strength in numbers.
Protestors have also been met with changing laws regarding public demonstrations. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act of 2022 increased the powers that police have to curb protests. This paired with a new public order bill allowing for people interfering with public infrastructure to face imprisonment creates a more difficult landscape for activists to navigate than in years past.
It is worth noting that XR does not operate under a centralised leadership, meaning that while one group has been responsible for the statement, other groups under the XR umbrella might operate based on different principles. Rather than a new debate, the decision over whether to adopt a less radical approach has been ongoing in the organisation for quite some time.
Moving forward, the organisation is seeking to target politicians directly. The next intervention that XR has planned is to surround the Houses of Parliament with 100,000 people, starting on April 21.