As I write on 7 September, Extinction Rebellion (XR) UK’s latest rebellion has just finished its first week, with a few days still to come. Every day, in many locations across the country, hundreds of protesters have turned out for often bold actions to urge action on the climate crises.
XR has rightly denounced serious and increasing police repression. Hundreds have been arrested, including mass arrests following kettling.
Protestors have been taking Covid-safety seriously, yet the police have threatened them, including those wearing face-masks, with fines using Coronavirus police powers.
Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, is threatening increased repression: “We must defend ourselves against this attack on capitalism, our way of life, and ultimately our freedoms.”
The Daily Mail cited a "Home Office source" as saying that “ We want to see some people banged up instead of escaping with a fine they can pay from their trust fund". According to the Daily Telegraph (5 September), one option under consideration is classifying XR as an organised criminal gang.
On Friday 5, XR targetted some of the bourgeois media. A “team of over 100 rebels blockaded newspaper printers overnight, successfully preventing The Sun, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Times from reaching newsstands all over the country.” Meanwhile rebels in Australia dumped manure outside Newscorp offices.
Aside from causing disruption and raising the profile of the climate crises and XR, XR was was targeting those media for “dehumanising marginalised groups”, systematically under-reporting climate change, and highlighting, too, its ownership by a handful of billionaires.
Boris Johnson, hypocritically, denounced this performative stunt as “seek[ing] to limit the public’s access to news”, implying an attack on “free press”.
The CEE Bill, the passing of which is their key aim of this rebellion, has been tabled in parliament and has garnered significant support.
The Bill and their strategy – while positive – remain severely limited (as argued in Solidarity 561). But socialist environmentalists should and do support it, while using it as a lever to spark or rekindle much needed environmental activism in workplaces, unions, Labour Party branches, and beyond.