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Twitter Reacts to Extinction Rebellion Protesters Getting Dragged Off Rush Hour Tube Train and Attacked

By Petr Knava | Social Media | October 17, 2019 |

By Petr Knava | Social Media | October 17, 2019 |


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For the past few weeks London has been host to a series of protest actions by the climate activist group, Exctinction Rebellion (‘XR’), as part of a self-described ‘autumn uprising’ or ‘autumn rebellion’.

The organisation, founded to bring attention to the imminent crisis of climate breakdown and to force tangible action from political and industry groups, aims to use mass civil disobedience and a willingness of activists getting arrested as part of their goal.

The group’s goals are not just admirable, but existentially necessary. In the face of ongoing capitalist exploitation and political inertia and complicity bringing the planet’s climate systems to a state that is already wreaking terrible destruction on vulnerable communities in the global South and that will soon cascade into a series of feedback loops bringing greater and greater devastation to ever larger parts of the planet, direct action has become the only route to being addressing the issue. In the coming years, as the effects of climate change accelerate and build on each other, the bonds of the social fabric and the superstructures of the world will begin to break down, often rapidly and violently, unless we take action to try ameliorate the worst of this.

XR are however not without their flaws. Some of which are significant, and which have attracted entirely justified criticism. Much of the group’s organisational spine and command structure—such as it is—is overwhelmingly white and middle class, and this is reflected in their mission statement regarding the police, and their often tone-deaf approach to structural violence faced by marginalised communities. There is a great piece on that right here:

What could be succinctly described as XR’s class and race problem is also reflected in their late and slow adoption of climate justice rhetoric—which seeks to centre the fact that climate change will be effectively an extension of colonialist exploitation: The nations and peoples who will bear the greatest brunt of the effects of climate collapse will be those who have historically suffered at the hands of the global North’s empires, all the while historically producing the least volume of the carbon emissions that have led to that collapse in the first place. There is a fantastic piece by Sharlene Gandhi here on the climate justice issue and XR’s less than ideal grasp of the situation. (This is not even mentioning some of the individuals involved in XR who have shown deeply troubling affinities for neo-climate-fascist language that would put the blame on overpopulation and immigration rather than capitalism and resource distribution. Those individuals might be in the minority but they do exist and they need to be sidelined immediately).

As part of XR’s autumn uprising, the group have blockaded roads, grounded airplanes, and staged various sit-ins and protests in numerous public places. The group has been subject to punitive police action as a result, including a recent and controversial blanket ban that forbade the staging of any protest under the XR banner in all of London.

This morning saw an ugly turn in the saga of the autumn uprising, with a small group of XR protesters climbing on top of a busy rush hour tube train in a working class and ethnically diverse part of London, many of whom would have been using that train to commute to precarious late stage capitalist employment with no allowances for lateness, which resulted in scenes that could be described—entirely, sincerely un-glibly—as ‘predictable’:

Twitter reacted to the events quickly.

It should be reiterated that though XR remains a officially decentralised movement with no formal hierarchy, the action depicted in the video was reportedly voted down by XR members, and the group has been quick to condemn the action. XR remain a necessary entity. The scale of the crisis before the entire world is unlike anything experienced by humanity before. The draconian response of the police and state to XR’s actions speak volumes and must be condemned. Yet quite aside from even the events of this morning there need to be serious changes made to the group’s methodology and messaging if they wish to refrain from shooting themselves in the foot.

Of course it must also be noted that violence against peaceful protesters is never okay, and the rhetorical ammunition this morning will give the far right is a horrible thing.



Petr is a staff contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.


Header Image Source: Getty Images


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