Environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion said Sunday it was halting its disruptive protests in the United Kingdom to try to win over more public support for its campaign against climate change.
The grassroots group has staged acts of civil disobedience by closing key roads, train lines and bridges in central London, blockading oil refineries, smashing windows at a bank headquarters and spaying fake blood over the finance ministry building.
When XR burst onto the scene four years ago, few could have imagined the seismic shift it would bring about in the climate movement, the climate conversation, and the world at large.
Their protests have garnered public attention but also widespread criticism as their stunts often cause traffic delays, major inconvenience or property damage. Giving the establishment ammunition to attack the messenger rather than be held to account.
But despite the blaring alarm on the climate and ecological emergency ringing loud and clear, very little has changed. Emissions continue to rise and our planet is dying at an accelerated rate.
The root causes? A financial system prioritising profits over life, a media failing to inform the public and hold power to account, and a reckless government entrenched in corruption and suppressing the right to protest injustice.
XR blocking of the Sun newspaper was tremendously popular however it did not cause an inconvenience to the public or traffic backlogs that could also be seen as counter-productive in fighting for clean air.
What did Extinction Rebellion say?
In a Tweet XR stated: WE QUIT! Our #NewYearsResolution is to halt our tactics of public disruption. Instead, we call on everyone to help us disrupt our corrupt government. #ChooseYourFuture & join us: 21 April, Parliament.
WE QUIT!— Extinction Rebellion UK 🌍 (@XRebellionUK) January 1, 2023
Our #NewYearsResolution is to halt our tactics of public disruption. Instead, we call on everyone to help us disrupt our corrupt government.#ChooseYourFuture & join us: 21 April, Parliament. pic.twitter.com/FZlCeaHj4F
In a statement entitled “We quit,” Extinction Rebellion UK said very little had changed during its first four years of protest action, with CO2 emissions continuing to rise.
“As we ring in the new year, we make a controversial resolution to temporarily shift away from public disruption as a primary tactic,” the group said in a statement.
“This year, we prioritize attendance over arrest and relationships over roadblocks, as we stand together and become impossible to ignore,” it added.
While recognizing “the power of disruption to raise the alarm,” the activists said that the group will now focus on disrupting “the abuse of power and imbalance” by demanding politicians end fossil fuel use.
“Our politicians, addicted to greed and bloated on profits, won’t do it without pressure,” the statement said.
The group said would it stage a major rally against the UK government’s environment policy on April 21 and called for 100,000 people to join their march outside the Houses of Parliament.
Why the change of strategy?
The group’s rebellious actions have been denounced by the Tory government, while large sections of the public and much of the media have called for a tougher response.
Many activists have been arrested, while ministers are pursuing plans to further outlaw its radical tactics.
New legislation will make it harder for people to halt public transport networks or disrupt fuel supplies and give the police greater powers to manage and prevent them.
At the same time, Extinction Rebellion has been overtaken by even more radical groups such as Just Stop Oil and Insulate Britain.
Those whose activists sprayed soup on Van Gogh’s masterpiece “The Sunflowers” at the National Gallery in London in October.
They also repeatedly stopped traffic on a major expressway around London by glueing themselves to the road. This strategy as stated as often backfired, the action has become the focus and not the message.
The message is the important bit
In an adult compromise and understanding that their tactics have not always been accepted by the general public, XR have straightly changed tact saying:
“We must be radical in our response to this crisis and determined in our efforts to address the climate and ecological emergency, even if it means taking a different approach than before. In a time when speaking out and taking action are criminalised, building collective power, strengthening in number and thriving through bridge-building is a radical act.
XR is committed to including everyone in this work and leaving no one behind, because everyone has a role to play. This year, we prioritise attendance over arrest and relationships over roadblocks, as we stand together and become impossible to ignore.
The conditions for change in the UK have never been more favourable – it’s time to seize the moment. The confluence of multiple crises presents us with a unique opportunity to mobilise and move beyond traditional divides. No one can do this alone, and it’s the responsibility of all of us, not just one group. It may be uncomfortable or difficult, but the strength of all social, environmental, and justice movements lies in working together. As our rights are stripped away and those speaking out and most at risk are silenced, we must find common ground and unite to survive.
It’s no secret that those in power are hoarding wealth and power at the expense of ordinary people, while ignoring the consequences of their greed. Emissions continue to rise, but they couldn’t care less. But people do care, and changes to democracy that free and empower the voices of the people through Citizens Assemblies could balance the tables and bring about the positive societal tipping point we all need.
Choose Your Future – 21st April and beyond – The Big One – Houses of Parliament – 100,000 people.