After a lockdown-enforced protest hiatus, the radical environmental campaign group Extinction Rebellion is back at it again.
Today, over 1,000 XR activists marched through central London towards Parliament Square, as the group begins another ten days of demonstrations aimed at forcing the British government to do something – anything – about the climate crisis.
After four protest marches converged on Westminster, a number of activists sat in the middle of the road outside Parliament, blocking traffic, on the day MPs returned to work after a summer recess. At least five were arrested, with police taking them to nearby vans as crowds of people – the vast majority of whom were wearing face masks – cheered and chanted.
Over the Bank Holiday weekend, a number of XR actions took place, including protesters breaking into an HS2 building site in Birmingham and chaining themselves to diggers. Various stunts are planned for the next ten days, including a “walk of shame” near the Bank of England and a “carnival of corruption” outside the Treasury.
Since the start of lockdown, the government has bailed out a number of large businesses responsible for climate destruction, without attaching any environmental stipulations to the loans. As VICE News revealed, some of the companies to have accessed funds via the Covid Corporate Financing Facility – which is administered by the Bank of England for the Treasury – have then paid shareholders and fired staff.
Police have said no boats, vehicles, trailers or other structures – fixtures of past XR protests – will be allowed at this round of demonstrations, and warned that those who failed to comply would face arrest.
When the XR movement started, the group invited arrests, saying law breaking through civil disobedience was a vital way to pick up media attention and get their message heard. "We know if we simply stand on a road holding a placard, the system just ignores it,” XR co-founder Gail Bradbrook told VICE News in 2018.
This tactic was partly successful – it attracted plenty of media interest – but also became a point of criticism. XR, said critics, excluded the Black community and other minority groups, who could not count on police to treat them the same way they might treat white XR activists.
“They have so much faith in the system to be on their side and not send them to prison, or not send them to prison for long,” Susuana Amoah, an environmental activist from Brighton, told the Guardian. “People of colour can’t do that. It won’t happen for us.
On the 1st of July, a blog post was published on Extinction Rebellion’s website acknowledging this criticism.
“We recognise now that our tactic of arrest has made it easier for people of privilege to participate and that our behaviours and attitudes fed into the system of white supremacy,” it read. “As we prepare to mobilise people to take to the streets again, we want to make very clear that the only way to have a rebellion that challenges the systems on which the climate emergency thrives, is for that rebellion to prioritise anti-racism and solidarity with all people striving for equality and justice.”
See more photos from today’s protest below.