Extinction Rebellion disrupts ‘business as usual’ across the globe

Published by Shamim Malekmian on

October 10th, 2019

Extinction Rebellion, arguably one of the most prominent and radical climate action groups of our time, owes its ascent to tree felling protestors, at least in England. 

Simon Bramwell, a Bristol man, is credited with igniting the civil disobedience movement back in 2015. Bramwell, who told The New York Times recentlyabout his great fear of heights, climbed into a tree to stop workers from cutting a whole row of trees to make space for a new bus lane. 

Soon he managed to galvanise other activists who helped him make platforms among the trees to sit on. The protest went on for a few weeks before authorities removed Bramwell and cut down the trees.

But that ending marked the beginning of a more massive and more resistant crusade. Three years after the unsuccessful tree rebellion, Bramwell and his fellow activists convened at a café in Bristol to attend what they believe was the first official XR meeting.

A firebreather performs after the budget is read aloud Photo: Kayle Crosson
A firebreather performs after the budget is read aloud Photo: Kayle Crosson

Detained for Climate

Non-violent, direct action in the form of mass disruption of what eco-activists refer to as a “business as usual” urban routine is at the heart of XR’s plan to raise awareness about the climate crisis.

The approach has captured universal attention as protestors lie dormant in the face of arrest, leading to numerous detentions worldwide.  

Urging their members to get arrested to amplify a cause is an age-old strategy of civil disobedience, most successfully employed during the civil rights movements in America in the 1950s.

On Monday – the first day of international rebellion week –   activists in London shut down roads and bridges near the Parliament and refused to move to Trafalgar Square where they would have a lesser impact on traffic. 

At least 280 climate activists were detained in London on Monday, according to the British police, joining a growing list of climate detainees that has surpassed the 1,000 mark.

Similar protests are being held and continue to materialise in other countries, including Ireland, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands and the US.

In New York, XR activists shocked tourists and other New Yorkers by lying in a pool of fake blood outside the New York Stock Exchange, bringing the city’s key financial district to a standstill. According to the New York Police Department, about 90 protesters were arrested on Monday.

The number of arrests continues to rise worldwide with dozens reported to have been detained at London City Airport today where XR members tried to highlight the emissions impact of flying. An Aer Lingus flight to Dublin was delayed by over an hour after an XR member staged an on-board protest and was removed prior to take-off.

Ceara Carney and Louis Heath of XR Ireland Photo: Gary O'Neill
Ceara Carney and Louis Heath of XR Ireland Photo: Gary O’Neill

Here to Stay

Although protestors have vowed to complete this week’s action plan, many tents, as well as their occupying protestors, have been cleared away from streets around the world and police forces appear determined to restore the “business as usual”. 

XR activists, however, remain unfazed. In Dublin, Irish XR members stormed Penny’s and Brown Thomas yesterday to highlight the exacerbating impact of fast-fashion on climate change. 

The protests also continued in London today with incidences of police’s rough treatment of protestors during today’s XR occupation of London city airport being reported. Hundreds of police officers are reported to have been called up to London today to help the Metropolitan police manage the sit-ins. 

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Shamim Malekmian

Shamim is a Senior Reporter at The Green News and a contributing writer to the Irish Examiner, Cork Evening Echo and the Dublin Inquirer.