Image Credit – Joël de Vriend
To kick off the New Year 2023, Extinction Rebellion (XR) has made a controversial resolution to temporarily shift away from public disruption as its primary protest tactic. XR states that while it recognises and celebrates the power of disruption to raise awareness and make a statement, the group believes it is important to constantly evolve tactics.1
XR activists have gained a significant amount of media attention throughout 2022 for using radical tactics such as spraying paint at buildings and glueing themselves to public places in an effort to draw attention to the climate change crisis and initiate discussions over what is important in today’s society. These protests have often been met with police action, with 70 activists arrested at XR protests taking place in London in April 2022.2 Eight arrests were made in September 2022 after XR activists had glued themselves in a chain around the Speaker’s chair in the House of Commons.3
Just Stop Oil, a rebellion group inspired by XR, have also been partaking in similar protest tactics. Notably, in early October, two protesters gained a heavy amount of media attention for throwing a can of soup at Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflower painting in London. In a subsequent interview, one of the protesters, Phoebe Plummer explained that she knew this action would bring no harm to the painting whatsoever and agreed that while throwing soup at a painting may look like a ridiculous action, it is sparking up a conversation so that we can ask the questions that matter.4
In a Public Order Bill released on 28th October 2022, the UK government announced a series of new measures that give the police more power to respond to disruptive and dangerous protests. In this statement, the government claims that recent protests have caused a disproportionate impact on the majority of people trying to go about their everyday lives, costing millions in taxpayer’s money, and putting lives at risk, and these new measures will help the police better manage protests and prevent disruption in the first place, while also allowing the police to balance the rights of protesters with the rights of others to go about their daily business.5
In the statement released by XR, the group asserts that what is most pressing now is disrupting the abuse of power and imbalance of power in society, and that it is crucial that to be radical in responding to the current crisis, even if that means taking a different approach. The group states that at a time when speaking out and taking action are often met with consequences, it is a radical act to build collective power, increase numbers, and foster strong connections through bridge-building.6
From 21 April 2023, XR has announced it is planning to stage its biggest mobilisation campaign to date. The group has set a goal of reaching a total of 100,000 protesters to gather outside the Houses of Parliament, demanding fair action on the climate change crisis. The protest is being held in response to the government’s inaction on the issue and the cost of living crisis that has resulted from it.
XR states that it is time for the government to take action on the climate crisis and work towards a brighter, more sustainable future for all. They encourage members of the public to join them in their demonstration and raise their voices for change.
To learn more about XR’s campaign, read here.
1. Extinction Rebellion UK, 1 January 2023. Extinction Rebellion UK’s New Year’s Resolution: WE QUIT. Available at https://extinctionrebellion.uk/2023/01/01/extinction-rebellion-uks-new-years-resolution-we-quit/ [accessed 2/1/23]
2. BBC News, 17 April 2022. Extinction Rebellion: Seventy arrested at climate change protests. Available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-61133235 [accessed 2/1/23]
3. BBC News, 2 September 2022. Extinction Rebellion: Climate activists arrested after protest in Commons chamber. Available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-62767480 [accessed 2/1/23]
4. YouTube, 9 November 2022. Phoebe Plummer from Just Stop Oil with the original interview for Free Seed News outside Downing St. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bn-j_5WZ34c [accessed 2/1/23]
5. Gov.UK, 28 October 2022. Policy Paper. Public Order Bill: Factsheet. Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/public-order-bill-overarching-documents/public-order-bill-factsheet [accessed 2/1/23]
6. Extinction Rebellion UK, 1 January 2023. Extinction Rebellion UK’s New Year’s Resolution: WE QUIT.