These demands only represent XR US. They are still in the process of development.
That the Government must tell the truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency, it must reverse all policies not in alignment with that position and must work alongside the media to communicate the urgency for change including what individuals, communities and businesses need to do.
The Government must enact legally binding policies to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and take further action to remove the excess of atmospheric greenhouse gases. It must cooperate internationally so that the global economy runs on no more than half a planet?s worth of resources per year.
We do not trust our Government to make the bold, swift and long-term changes necessary to achieve these changes and we do not intend to hand further power to our politicians. Instead we demand a Citizens? Assembly to oversee the changes, as we rise from the wreckage, creating a democracy fit for purpose.
We demand a just transition that prioritizes the most vulnerable people and indigenous sovereignty; establishes reparations and remediation led by and for Black people, Indigenous people, people of color and poor communities for years of environmental injustice, establishes legal rights for ecosystems to thrive and regenerate in perpetuity, and repairs the effects of ongoing ecocide to prevent extinction of human and all species, in order to maintain a livable, just planet for all.
Government must create, and be led by the decisions of, a citizens' assembly on climate and ecological justice.
When the movement expanded to the United States, a further demand was added to that group's list: "We demand a just transition that prioritizes the most vulnerable people and indigenous sovereignty; establishes reparations and remediation led by and for Black people, Indigenous people, people of colour and poor communities for years of environmental injustice, establishes legal rights for ecosystems to thrive and regenerate in perpetuity, and repairs the effects of ongoing ecocide to prevent extinction of human and all species, in order to maintain a livable, just planet for all."
XR states the following on its website and explains the following in its declaration:
"We have a shared vision of change—creating a world that is fit for generations to come.
We set our mission on what is necessary—mobilising 3.5% of the population to achieve system change by using ideas such as "momentum-driven organising" to achieve this.
We need a regenerative culture—creating a culture that is healthy, resilient, and adaptable.
We openly challenge ourselves and this toxic system, leaving our comfort zones to take action for change.
We value reflecting and learning, following a cycle of action, reflection, learning, and planning for more action (learning from other movements and contexts as well as our own experiences).
We welcome everyone and every part of everyone—working actively to create safer and more accessible spaces.
We actively mitigate for power—breaking down hierarchies of power for more equitable participation.
We avoid blaming and shaming—we live in a toxic system, but no one individual is to blame.
We are a non-violent network using non-violent strategy and tactics as the most effective way to bring about change.
We are based on autonomy and decentralisation—we collectively create the structures we need to challenge power. Anyone who follows these core principles and values can take action in the name of Extinction Rebellion."
A volunteer for 'police liaison' during an Extinction Rebellion action.
Extinction Rebellion is a loosely networked, decentralised, grassroots movement. Anyone who takes action in pursuit of "XR's three goals and adheres to its ten principles, which includes non-violence, can claim to do it in the name of XR."
Extinction Rebellion has a decentralised structure. Providing that they respect the 'principles and values', every local group can organise events and actions independently. To organise the movement, local groups are structured with various 'working groups' taking care of strategy, outreach, well-being, etc.
A youth wing—XR Youth—of Extinction Rebellion had formed by July 2019. In contrast to the main XR, it is centred around consideration of the Global South and indigenous peoples, and more concerned with climate justice. By October 2019 there were 55 XR Youth groups in the UK and another 25 elsewhere. All XR Youth comprise people born after 1990, with an average age of 16, and some aged 10.
Extinction Rebellion was established in the United Kingdom in May 2018 with about one hundred academics signing a call to action in support in October 2018, and launched at the end of October by Roger Hallam,Gail Bradbrook, Simon Bramwell, and other activists from the campaign group Rising Up!
Grassroots movements such as those of Occupy, Gandhi's Satyagraha, the suffragettes,Gene Sharp,Martin Luther King Jr. and others in the civil rights movement have been cited as sources of inspiration In seeking to rally support worldwide around a common sense of urgency to tackle climate breakdown, reference is also made to Saul Alinsky. His "Pragmatic Primer," Rules for Radicals (1972), is seen as offering insights as to "how we mobilise to cope with emergency", and "strike a balance between disruption and creativity". Roger Hallam has been clear that the strategy of public disruption is "heavily influenced" by the community-organizing tactician: "The essential element here is disruption. Without disruption, no one is going to give you their eyeballs”.
A number of activists in the movement accept arrest and imprisonment, similar to the mass arrest tactics of the Committee of 100 in 1961.
On 9 December 2018, a second open letter of support signed by another hundred academics was published.
In January 2019, XR staged an occupation of the Scottish Parliament's debating chamber in Holyrood, Edinburgh. In February council chambers were also occupied by XR groups in Norwich and Gloucestershire. A week later neighbouring Somerset County Councildeclared a climate emergency, citing school strikers and XR as having some input into the decision. In late February, following an XR petition, Reading Borough Council also declared a climate emergency, aiming to cut carbon emissions by 2030, a week after discussions with the XR Reading group and a day after the warmest winter day on record in the UK.
In February, 'Swarming' roadblocks were held outside London Fashion Week venues and XR called on the British Fashion Council to declare a 'climate emergency', and for the industry to take a leading role in tackling climate change. In March, around 400 protesters poured buckets of fake blood on the road outside Downing Street to represent the threatened lives of children. On 1 April, protesters undressed and glued themselves to the glass in the House of Commons viewing gallery during a debate on Brexit.
Starting Monday 15 April, Extinction Rebellion organised demonstrations in London, focusing on Oxford Circus, Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge and the area around Parliament Square. The intersection of Oxford Street and Regent Street (Oxford Circus) was blocked with a boat, to which activists glued themselves, as well as gazebos, potted plants and trees, a mobile stage and a skate ramp. Sites at Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge and the area around Parliament Square were also occupied and Shell Oil Company's headquarters was targeted. On 16 April on Waterloo Bridge, police stopped making arrests after running out of holding cells. By the end of that day an estimated 500,000 people had been affected by the disruptions and 290 activists had been arrested in London. In Scotland, more than 1,000 protesters occupied the North Bridge in Edinburgh for seven hours. On 17 April activists including 83-year-old Phil Kingston climbed onto the roof of a Docklands Light Railway train at Canary Wharf station whilst another glued himself to the side. On 18 April, the fourth day of continuous occupations at the four locations, the arrest figure had risen to 428. Also on 18 April activists held a series of swarming (short duration) roadblocks on Vauxhall Bridge. On 19 April, around a dozen teenagers approached the access road to Heathrow Airport holding a banner. Police partially cleared the Oxford Circus site, including removing the boat, whilst activists still occupied the road. The police said 682 people had thus far been arrested in London. On 25 April protesters glued themselves across the entrances to the London Stock Exchange, whilst others climbed on to a Docklands Light Railway train at Canary Wharf holding banners. Activists gathered at Hyde Park to end the 11-day demonstrations in London, during which 1,130 people had been arrested.
Extinction Rebellion targeted London Fashion Week (LFW) in September 2019 with three days of actions in order to raise awareness about the environmental impact of the fashion industry and fast fashion—"the United Nations has said it uses more energy than the aviation and shipping industry combined".
On 3 October Extinction Rebellion activists used an out of commission fire engine to spray the front of the Treasury in London with 1800 litres of fake blood, holding banners at the front of the building that read “STOP FUNDING CLIMATE DEATH”. The protest was held to highlight the “inconsistency between the UK Government’s insistence that the UK is a world leader in tackling climate breakdown, while pouring vast sums of money into fossil exploration and carbon-intensive projects.” The protesters sprayed the building for several seconds until they lost control of the hose. Eight people were arrested.
As part of a two-week series of XR actions which they called "International Rebellion", to take place in more than 60 cities worldwide, events were planned around London from 7 to 19 October to demand the UK government take urgent action to tackle the climate crisis. It was reported to have drawn 30,000 activists to London. Alongside the protest, talks and performances were held in Trafalgar Square featuring public figures such as UK comedians Simon Amstell and Nish Kumar, electro-pop band Disclosure and author Stanley Johnson.
On 7 October, several thousand people shut down parts of Westminster in central London, blocking Whitehall, the Mall, Westminster Bridge, Lambeth Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Downing Street and Victoria Embankment. On 8 October, an Extinction Rebellion group organised for 1,000 trees to appear outside the UK parliament. Over 400 MPs collected trees, and some publicly committed to accelerate reforesting in the UK.
On 12 October, XR held a "funeral procession" along Oxford Street which it claimed had 20,000 participants. The same day, animal rights activists affiliated with XR (Animal Rebellion) said 28 of their supporters were arrested while attempting to block access to Billingsgate Fish Market.
On Monday 14 October, hundreds of XR activists occupied Bank junction, outside the Bank of England in the City of London, London's financial district, focussing on the financial institutions "funding environmental destruction". That night police, controversially, banned all the Extinction Rebellion protests from the whole of London, starting at 9 pm, under section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986.
XR continued with a protest at the Department for Transport on 15 October. XR applied for urgent judicial review of the ban. On 6 November the high court ruled that the Met's section 14 order was unlawful because it went beyond the powers granted to police by the Act.
On 16 October, mothers of infants held a sit-in outside Google's London headquarters, in protest at the company's funding of climate deniers. At the same building, XR Youth climbed on top of the entrance to YouTube, with a banner reading "YouTube, stop climate denial", relating to its hosting of climate change denial videos.George Monbiot and Jonathan Bartley were arrested on Whitehall.
On 17 October, XR activists targeted rail and underground services near to the Canary Wharf financial district by climbing onto or gluing themselves to trains at Shadwell, Stratford and Canning Town stations. At Canning Town, a largely working-class neighbourhood, an activist was dragged from the top of a tube train and beaten by angry commuters.
On 18 October, Oxford Circus was blocked. Later, a protester free solo climbed halfway up Big Ben using scaffolding that surrounded it, and unfurled banners.
On 1 September 2020, Extinction Rebellion began 10 days of action called Autumn Rebellion, with activities in Cardiff, Manchester and London. Protesters successfully blocked Parliament Square on the first day and demanded that Parliament support the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, a private member's bill tabled by Caroline Lucas.
On 2 September, activists in Cardiff held a socially distanced beach party outside the Welsh Parliament, to highlight the impact of rising sea levels. Others glued themselves to the BBC Wales building.
On 5 September 2020, XR blocked access to several printing presses owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, disrupting the distribution of the company's newspapers The Sun,The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Distribution of The Daily Mail and London Evening Standard, which are printed by News Corp, was also affected. In a statement, XR said the action was designed to disrupt and expose what it called a failure to adequately report on the climate emergency: "Our free press, society and democracy is under attack – from a failing government that lies to us consistently … Our leaders have allowed the majority of our media to be amassed in the hands of five people with powerful vested interests and deep connections to fossil fuel industries. We need a free press but we do not have it." 72 arrests were made. In a statement on Twitter, Home Secretary Priti Patel called the actions "an attack on our free press, society and democracy". After government officials considered reclassifying XR as an organised crime group, a number of public figures such as Stephen Fry and Mark Rylance criticised the government's move in an open letter, describing XR as "a group of people who hold the government to account".
On 6 September, Police seized the "Lightship Greta", a mock lightvessel bearing the slogan "sound the alarm, climate emergency", in Kennington, South London. It had been pushed for six days from Brighton and was headed to Stratford, East London.
On 26 January 2019, Extinction Rebellion NYC activists formed the extinction symbol with their bodies on the ice at the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink. An activist climbed and hung a banner on the large gold Prometheus statue. On 17 April 2019, over 60 activists were arrested at a die-in in the streets around New York City Hall. On 22 June 2019, 70 activists were arrested for blocking traffic outside of The New York Times headquarters in midtown Manhattan. On 10 August 2019, over 100 people were arrested at a joint-protest shutting down the West Side Highway, in protest at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency's alleged human rights abuses at the US-Mexico border and its role in mass deportations. On 5 September 2019, traffic was blocked at multiple intersections in midtown Manhattan to bring attention to the fires in Amazonia. On 6 September 2019, an XR activist climbed the Unisphere in Queens, New York. On 7 October 2019, Extinction Rebellion activists splashed fake blood on Wall Street's Charging Bull sculpture, blocked an entrance to the New York Stock Exchange, and laid down across Broadway, stopping traffic for more than an hour. About 90 protesters were arrested. On 10 October 2019, XR activists dropped a sailboat in a Times Square intersection, with some protesters gluing their hands to the boat, snarling traffic in the process.
On 28 April 2019, non-violent activists blocked a railroad track bringing Canadian tar sands oil to Portland, Oregon, where , a Calgary, Alberta, Canada-based multinational operates a marine export terminal. Eleven protesters were arrested for planting a garden atop the tracks. Five, including Ken Ward, were tried February 2020 in the Multnomah County, Oregon courthouse, for their civil disobedience. Their jury hung on the verdict with five of the six jurors voted for acquittal but the majority were unable to convince the sixth juror to dispose of the case.
On 7 October 2019, XR held a global day of “civil disobedience” with disruptive actions causing chaos and outrage in major cities around the world. Protesters in Berlin gathered at the Victory Column near the Brandenburg Gate Monday morning. The action continued into the evening with Potsdamer Platz, which was at some point occupied by some 3,000 protesters, according to the local media. Protesters blocked roads across Australia and New Zealand, with police in Sydney arresting at least 30 people. Activists in Wellington, New Zealand, staged a "die-in" at an ANZ Bank branch, demanding that it “divest away from fossil fuels,” with some protesters gluing their hands to the windows. Others occupied the lobby of the Ministry of Business and Innovation. In Amsterdam more than 100 protesters were arrested after they erected a tent camp on the main road outside the national museum Rijksmuseum. In Paris, about 1,000 protesters backed by the yellow vests movement occupied a shopping centre. In Vienna, protesters also blocked traffic in the city.
On 21 October 2019 on the British island of Jersey, XR activists caused disruption during morning rush hour, blocking the road while cycling slowly into St Helier. They then staged a 'die-in' in the town centre.
On 6 December 2019, Extinction Rebellion activists blocked streets for 7 hours in Washington, D.C., calling for an end to World Bank funding of fossil fuels.
On 24 January 2020, 25 Extinction Rebellion activists chained themselves to handrails in the Kastrup airport in Denmark, in protest against plans for its future expansion. They played fake announcements for more than half an hour in the arrivals area of the airport announcing that the airport expansion needs to be cancelled immediately to reach climate neutrality by 2025.
Arrest as a tactic
Extinction Rebellion uses mass arrest as a tactic to try to achieve its goals. Extinction Rebellion's founders researched the histories of "the suffragettes, the Indian salt marchers, the civil rights movement and the Polish and East German democracy movements", who all used the tactic, and are applying their lessons to the climate crisis. Co-founder Roger Hallam has said "letters, emailing, marches don’t work. You need about 400 people to go to prison. About two to three thousand people to be arrested."
In June and July 2019 some of the Extinction Rebellion supporters arrested that April appeared in court in the UK. On 25 June a 68-year-old protester was convicted of breaching a section 14 order giving police the power to clear static protests from a specified area, and given a conditional discharge. On 12 April over 30 protesters appeared in court, each charged with being a public assembly participant failing to comply with a condition imposed by a senior police officer at various locations on various dates. Some pleaded guilty, and were mostly given conditional discharges. The trials of those who pleaded not guilty are to take place in September and October.[needs update]
During the 'International Rebellion', which started on 15 April 2019, actions and messages of support arrived from various sources, including a speech by actress Emma Thompson, a planned visit by school strike leader Greta Thunberg, and statements from former NASA scientist James Hansen and linguist and activist Noam Chomsky.
A study conducted during the first two days of the mid-April London occupation found that 46% of respondents supported the rebellion; however, a larger opinion poll later found that support had declined and that 54% of respondents now strongly or somewhat opposed actions aiming to "shut down London" as the protests on 17 April blocked access to means of transport including buses, alienating travellers.
In June 2019, 1,000 healthcare professionals in the UK and elsewhere, including professors, public health figures, and former presidents of royal colleges, called for widespread non-violent civil disobedience in response to "woefully inadequate" government policies on the unfolding ecological emergency. They called on politicians and the news media to face the facts of the unfolding ecological emergency and take action. They supported the school strike movement and Extinction Rebellion.
In July 2019 Trevor Neilson, Rory Kennedy and Aileen Getty launched the Climate Emergency Fund (CEF), inspired by Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion protesters in the UK in April. It donated almost half a million pounds to Extinction Rebellion groups in New York City and Los Angeles and school strike for climate groups in the US. In September 2019 Getty pledged $600,000 (£487,000) to the Fund.
Michael Stipe is a supporter; all profits from his debut solo single, "Your Capricious Soul", will go to Extinction Rebellion.
On 6 February 2020, the environmental organization Mobilize Earth debuted Guardians of Life, the first of twelve short films that highlight the most pressing issues facing humanity and the natural world. Funds raised by the project will go to Amazon Watch and Extinction Rebellion.
Ben Smoke, one of the Stansted 15, writing in The Guardian, criticised XR's tactic of mass arrest. He wrote for XR to casually speak of imprisonment undermines the negative experiences of incarceration on black, Asian and minority ethnic people in the UK. He also wrote that for XR to be supporting peoples' court cases risks drawing significant "resources, time, money and energy" from the environmental movement, from the individuals involved, and which could otherwise be directed towards people most affected by climate change. Smoke instead recommended tactics that are not only the preserve of those able to afford the expense and time of arrest. He also wrote that though mass arrests may be intended to cause government to focus more on tackling climate change, it might instead cause government to increase anti-protest legislation.
The critique of XR's middle class white privilege, that its mass arrest tactic does not consider that people of colour will not be treated as leniently by the system as white people, was also highlighted in an open letter from Wretched of the Earth, an environmental group that focuses on black, brown and indigenous voices, to XR. The group responded to this critique with a thank you, pointing out their solidarity and commitment to diversity of membership as well diversity in styles of engagement (for example, one does not need to volunteer for a prison term in order to be an active member of XR).
Some in Extinction Rebellion have also called attention to Martin Luther King Jr. (one of XR's guiding inspirations) in this regard, noting that his call for civil disobedience to end segregation was a call directed toward all who were willing and able, regardless of race or colour.
When the movement expanded to the US, a fourth demand was added to that group's list of demands: for a "just transition that prioritises the most vulnerable and indigenous sovereignty [and] establishes reparations and remediation led by and for black people, indigenous people, people of colour and poor communities for years of environmental injustice."
Karen Bell, senior lecturer in human geography and environmental justice at the University of West of England, Bristol, wrote in The Guardian that environmental groups such as Extinction Rebellion are not strongly rooted in working-class organisations and communities, which she said is a problem because building the broad-based support necessary for a radical transition to sustainability requires contributions from all strands of environmentalism, especially working class. Labour Party shadow cabinet member Lisa Nandy criticised the organisation in The Guardian in October 2019, saying "calls for individual action can't just be modelled on the lifestyles of middle class city dwellers".
According to the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, which supports XR's course of strong action and demands, the time frame being urged by XR is "an ambition that technically, economically and politically has absolutely no chance of being fulfilled." It said that one way to go net zero by 2025 would include the scrapping of flying and 38 million petrol and diesel cars would need to be removed from the roads. Twenty-six million gas boilers would need to be disconnected in six years. The Rapid Transition Alliance and the Centre for Alternative Technology are more positive about the date specified.
A report called Extremism Rebellion by Policy Exchange, a UK-based centre-rightthink tank, said that Extinction Rebellion is an extremist organisation seeking the breakdown of liberal democracy and the rule of law. In 2019 the South East Counter Terrorism Unit police authority listed Extinction Rebellion, alongside neo-Nazi and Islamist terrorist groups, as a threat in a guide titled "Safeguarding young people and adults from ideological extremism", but recalled and disavowed this guide after media inquiries.
Politics and ideology
Extinction Rebellion's third demand ("Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice") has been summarised by its leadership as a demand to "go beyond politics". This demand has been criticised by socialists, including individuals who have participated in the movement's action. Writing for The Independent in April 2019, Natasha Josette, an anti-racist activist and member of Labour for a Green New Deal, critiqued Extinction Rebellion both for marginalising ethnic minorities, and for not recognising "that the climate crisis is the result of neoliberal capitalism, and a global system of extraction, dispossession and oppression". Also writing for The Independent, Amardeep Dhillon argued that XR's narrow focus on net zero carbon emissions meant that it ignored extractivism and the threat to the environment posed by companies in the extractive sector using greenwashing to defend and advance their economic interests, suggesting that XR's position "threatens to give carte blanche to governments and corporations who are happy to shift the burden of climate destruction onto poor and indigenous communities of colour in the global South".
In October 2019, Erica Eisen, an XR participant, wrote an article for Current Affairs in which she linked the movement's "beyond politics" slogan not only to the demand for a citizens' assembly but also to a refusal to take stances on issues beyond the environment, in order to gain as broad a base of support as possible, highlighting the movement's ban on organising community groups based on political identity. She argued that "...our current economic system is (not) compatible with continued life on this planet. It is unrealistic and irresponsible to pretend that a proposed climate solution which keeps capitalism intact is any kind of solution at all", and that failing to articulate an anti-capitalist position undermined the movement's credibility by "lend(ing) tacit support" to large companies responsible for environmentally destructive behaviour. She also suggested that failing to embrace leftist positions would give space for far right groups to piggyback and exploit environmentalist rhetoric, citing the examples of the Christchurch mosque shootings and 2019 El Paso shooting, both of whose perpetrators left manifestos which mentioned environmental concerns. Writing for i-D in December 2019, Nathalie Olah drew parallels between XR and earlier decentralised protest movements such as the events of May 68 in France and the Occupy movement, suggesting that a shared lack of clarity in concrete demands had stunted the political impact of the latter two movements and arguing that climate change and class politics were "inextricable" as "a small minority are responsible for a high proportion of emissions, and because the poorest stand to face the worst repercussions".
Analysis of the October 2019 "International Rebellion" indicates that "the movement was mentioned more than 70,000 times in online media reports. Of these, 43.5% of online coverage was in the UK followed by 15.2% from Germany, 14.6 % in Australia and 12.1% in the US."
This Is Not a Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook. London: Penguin, 2019. ISBN 978-0-14-199144-3.
Our Fight. By Juliana Muniz Westcott. 2019. ISBN 978-1-79325-836-6.
XR launched a free newspaper in the UK in September 2019, called The Hourglass. 110,000 copies were printed of its first edition.