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This Monday, Extinction Rebellion (XR) has commenced their two-week stream of protests in London blockading entrances to Capitol buildings and disrupting traffic to ensure that they do not go unnoticed. XR is a relatively recent climate activist group, only founded in 2018, but has caught the attention of many that feel unheard by their government representatives and want their eco-friendly choices to be practised on a global level. The group’s large scale activity in London started back in April with protests that led to the arrest of an estimated 1,000 people according to Al-Jazeera. Al Jazeera further reports that these protests included heavily disrupting traffic, blocking important sites, and even smashing a window of an oil company headquarters building. This brigade managed to change the minds of government officials on one of the XR’s key demands: declaring an environment and climate emergency. Along with this demand, there are two others on the “non-negotiables” section of XR’s agenda. One of those is getting the government to commit to reducing carbon emissions to net-zero by 2025, and the other is to create a Citizen’s Assembly to lead discussions surrounding climate change. The fervour that they demonstrated in their protests back in April and their efforts in London now have certainly branded them as a radical organization. Al Jazeera adds to this sentiment as it reports that 5,000 of their group members are willing to be arrested, 2,245 are willing to go to prison, and 1,836 are willing to go on hunger strike.
The protests that have been going on in London this past week have also further spoken to XR’s radical nature. The Guardian reports the presence of XR camps in London that the police have been trying to clear to return to normalcy. One story that The Guardian hits on is the account of 76 year old, Hazel McGee. She said, after locking herself to an iron tube, “I’m making a statement about the most important thing in the world now, which is that we start acting to prevent climate change, and in particular getting to tipping points where we can’t turn back.” Hazel is not the only one who has taken such drastic measures, there are other reports of people locking or gluing themselves to buildings. In one specific case that exuded symbolism, some protestors chained themselves to a funeral car in the middle of Trafalgar Square. Examples like this of XR’s action are not specific to England. The activist group has been working globally since its founding. Al Jazeera reports of XR protesters in Germany that have glued themselves to the gates of a coal-fired power station. From this we can clearly conclude that XR will not let their presence go unnoticed.
All of these demonstrations that some would consider dramatic and the police would certainly consider inconvenient are all aimed at a purpose: having their voices be heard. If we lived in a society where people walked around with ears willing to listen, then there would be no need for such “civil disobedience.” This is not the case however; the attention and following that XR is gaining is ultimately so that discussion can be had, specifically discussion between the government and its people. These protests are not a means to an end; rather they demand conversation and dialogue. Through dialogue, every party involved can grow in a greater understanding of truth about climate change and the state of emergency we are in. Once that understanding is shared and acknowledged we can then move towards action together on a united front to make care for our planet.