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Activism

Extinction Rebellion vows to ‘get serious’ with ‘most roadblocks ever’

“We want to create the most roadblocks we’ve ever created, using as many people as we can.”

Extinction Rebellion has warned its members are planning to block more roads than ever during an upcoming campaign of civil resistance – saying it’s time to “get serious”.

Activists intend to simultaneously block as many roads as possible around central London, not moving until they are arrested or the government agrees to “immediately end new fossil fuel investments”.

It signals a change in tactics from the yoga, pink boats, and pink tables of previous XR protests.

Alanna Byrne, an XR spokesperson, told The Big Issue: “We want to create the most roadblocks we’ve ever created, using as many people as we can.”

Byrne added: “Lots of people in XR are feeling like we need to get more serious, basically.”

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The group has told supporters to join them at Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park from 10am on Saturday April 9 onwards, with members advised to book time off work from then until April 17, and then “at least” every weekend until May 8.

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Alongside the roadblocks, the group is planning to train activists and the public in anticipation of a bigger rebellion later in the year – with sessions including how to speak to the police, how to get arrested with confidence, and civil resistance tactics.

From there, the group plans to move its activists around London, blocking roads and hoping to evade the police.

“We’re not going to do it in a big bombastic way this time with lots of infrastructure and colourful things,” Byrne said.

“We’re trying to get serious and say we’re not going to go home until the government agrees to immediately end new fossil fuel investments.”

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Activists from Extinction Rebellion have already been engaging in protests this month, with a group climbing on top of two tankers at the Esso West oil terminal in London this week.

Along with Just Stop Oil, XR has also been blocking oil terminals around the country.

A group of scientists and academics also threw fake oil over Shell’s headquarters this week, just days after a new IPCC said it was “now or never” for avoiding a climate catastrophe. News also emerged this week that Shell paid no tax on its UK oil and gas production last year and was in fact given a tax refund by the government – despite making a £14.7bn profit.

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Extinction Rebellion’s past methods have attracted criticism, not just from politicians, but from activists. Its tactics of mass arrests led to accusations of privilege and a lack of diversity, as well as of diverting resources away from tackling climate change.

The group also apologised in 2019 after its members climbed on top of a commuter train in London.

Now XR says it is shifting its tactics away from eye-catching but disparate stunts and towards focused action and “mass outreach”.

“We need to streamline our actions now rather than lots of dispersed, direct actions saying a lot of different things, which is what we’ve done a lot of over certainly the past two years,” Byrne said.

“We’re now tending to use the term civil resistance instead of the term civil disobedience – the difference being we’re not going to ask the government to change, we’re saying we’re coming to stop the government doing the harmful things that they’re doing.

“We’re telling people to come and resist the harm that’s being done by the government, and come back day after day until they agree to stop fossil fuel investments.”

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