What would you do for something you believed strongly in? Would you glue yourself to the top of a train? Block traffic in a major city centre? Strip naked in parliament?
The activists at Extinction Rebellion (XR) have. The group, which has members worldwide, formed in late 2018 in an effort to ‘rebel’ against the government against issues surrounding climate change.
“Extinction Rebellion is an international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience to achieve radical change in order to minimise the risk of human extinction and collapse.” Extinction Rebellion Website.
Extinction Rebellion in London
Although the underlying threat of climate change has always been a cloud over our heads, there is no doubt that in recent years, the climate has become somewhat of a hot topic.
David Attenborough’s latest Netflix show, ‘Our Planet’, is a self-confessed cry of help to do something about the environment. School children around the world have gone on strike to show their discontent with how their respective governments are handling climate change.
Now, Extinction Rebellion are staging demonstrations globally.
It’s somewhat easier for us here at Viva HQ to comment on what goes on in London, as it doesn’t always directly affect us. We’re all the way up north and we can simply pass comment, then move on with our lives and not be affected by people disrupting our commutes home, or have people chained outside our houses.
So, whilst (depending on your views), non-violent ‘civil disobedience’ might not actually hurt anyone, at what point do protests turn from an act of solidarity to an act of annoyance?
Protests: Necessary Evil or Unnecessary Annoyance?
The people involved in Extinction Rebellion, other than making commuting a pain, aren’t directly causing any harm, are they? With over 400 arrests in the past four days in London, the main aim of XR seems to be to ‘clog up the system’. They’re backing up public transport, backing up road traffic, and even backing up the judiciary system.
According to one article by the Guardian, Roger Hallam, leader of Extinction Rebellion, previously encouraged XR members to go to prison, claiming ‘arrests aren’t happening quickly enough’ and that nearly ‘4,000 people need to go to prison’ for a rebellion to work.
Now, cells are quickly filling up and reports suggest that protestors that have been arrested are being sent to Luton, Brighton and Essex just to keep up with demand. Again – is this effective protesting, or is it just a nuisance to all involved?
London Riots, 2011
Let’s look at it in the context of the 2011 London Rebellions. Starting in the capital and then spreading across the country, riots in the UK’s major cities eight years ago caused mass disruption and destruction. The catalyst was when a police officer shot and killed a Mark Duggan, a black male, in London.
Many linked his death with racial tension and thus, the riots began. What started as a peaceful protest in Tottenham was followed by looting, rioting, arson, and violence for five days. Five people died in connection with the 2011 London Riots.
Currently, there have been no deaths and no major injuries with the Extinction Rebellion protests.
What is the point?
People supporting the protests might understand that those involved are just ‘getting in the way’ of normal life, but is this inconvenience over then last few days a small price to pay in order to halt the major ‘inconveniences’ that accompany climate change? Or are people too annoyed with the protests to even listen to what they’re about?
As a worst-case scenario, protesters could be cutting off their nose to spite their face. Whilst we’re sure that rioter’s intentions are sincere, people might be so irritated by the disruptions that instead of, at best ‘tuning out’ XR, people actively dispute the protesters’ cause all together.
If you needed to travel through London in an emergency, and your route was blocked by protesters, would you pause and consider the message they’re conveying, or would you feel aggravated and make a conscious effort to ignore them?
As mentioned before, it is easy for us to remain detached from the situation. Riots and protests can be put to the back of our minds as easily as turning the page in the newspaper. Is it this thinking though, when it comes to climate change, that the protestors are marching for?
Nic Parkes | Junior Accounts Executive