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Extinction Rebellion: Most Recent Protest in Review

Ziryan Aziz reports as Extinction Rebellion returns to the streets of Britain to protest the negligence of the climate change debate.

Photo by Gabriel Mccallin

A “flipping nuisance” is how the deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police described Extinction Rebellion members’ tactics when arrested at their most recent London rally. Yes, Extinction Rebellion (XR) are back after a seemingly quiet period from when they last notably hit the streets a year ago, pressuring Theresa May’s government to back a climate emergency bill.

Since lockdown measures took effect during the spring, however, like most things in the UK, everything grounded to a halt, including protest activities. But things have changed since restrictions were lessened, and the group are active once again, although the second wave may soon dampen plans once more.

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Restarting the Conversation

Starting on the last weekend of August, the group promised a weekend uprising with several events planned. Alongside East-Sussex members marching, dressed in black to mourn for the human destruction of the natural world, the group had also planned family sit-ins outside the Bank of England in protest of fossil fuel bailouts. In Bristol, the group blocked off the Prince Street Bridge and Clifton Suspension Bridge, as well as painting elephant tracks across the city, representing the ‘Elephant in the Room', according to the local branch.

More than 600 arrests were made in total over five days of mass protests in London, during which protesters blocked the roads to Parliament. In Birmingham, 150 rebels marched to the headquarters of HS2, the conservative government’s high speed rail plan, and in Manchester, protesters closed off a section of the A34, Oxford Road.

More serious was the coordinated series of protests outside newspaper printing works in Hertfordshire, Merseyside, North Lanarkshire on September 5th which caught national attention when protesters blocked the entrances to the printing works, causing mass delays in morning deliveries of The Times, the Sun, the Daily Mail and more. The target was papers belonging to Rupert Murdoch, an Australian media tycoon who the group described as having failed "to report on the climate and ecological emergency" and "polluting national debate".

More striking was reported on the group’s site, with a series of statements placing a particular focus on the aviation industry, calling for protests around UK airports in a show of opposition to the idea that the sector should be allowed to return to ‘business as usual’ as the pandemic eases. XR also slammed the government for not taking a harder stance, allowing “increasing flight numbers, runway expansions and no-strings-attached airline bailouts.” Despite this, no protests at airports appear to have taken place.

On this particular occasion, various members of the government weighed in on the protests with Boris Johnson calling the printing press protests in particular "completely unacceptable", and Home Secretary Priti Patel branding them “eco-crusaders turned criminals” who pose an “emerging threat” through their "attack[s] on democracy".

Next on the Agenda

A recurring theme throughout these string of protests has been a call to back Extinction Rebellion’s proposed Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill. The bill aims to reinforce the promises made in the 2019 Climate Emergency Bill by “making the government act with urgency”.

The bill would seek to amend the current legislation by removing exemptions for industries that up to now have not had to abide by the zero net carbon emissions target. Furthermore, measures are proposed such as creating a Citizens’ Assembly where ordinary people can have a voice on climate policy, taking into account the entire carbon footprint of the country, and evaluating the dangers of our consumerist culture.

The bill was proposed in Parliament by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, and has seen some vocal support from some MPs in Plaid Cymru, the Scottish National Party, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats. 23 academics have also shown their support, alongside legal experts.

The bill was tabled in the House of Commons on the 3rd September, and will be brought to a second reading. If it passes, it will bring Extinction Rebellion one step closer to achieving their goal of increasing the spotlight on the climate crisis in the UK, before the real work can begin on trying to address the problem.

You may also like: Greenland is Melting: 1 Million Tonnes of Ice Lost Every Minute in 2019

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