By Connor Scully, Second Year, Politics and International Relations
Extinction Rebellion (XR) have returned with their notoriously bizarre and disruptive forms of protest across the UK. However, this time, the group has seriously crossed the line by holding their demonstrations in the middle of a global pandemic.
In Bristol, the demonstrations began towards the end of August. Two activists laid down together on the Suspension Bridge ahead of its closure for the planned protest on the following day.
In a Facebook Live stream, the Mayor of Bristol responded to a concern from a Bristolian regarding the risk of saying that ‘people have the right to protest’. This statement is true and people do in fact have the right to protest.
That being said, it must also be stressed that just because you can do something, does not mean that you should.
Not to mention, some of the actions by XR have not been protests, but attacks on our democracy. During the first weekend of September, XR blocked printing sites from distributing newspapers such as The Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and more.
The result of this attack was an incredible amount of outrage from those on both ends of the political spectrum. The Prime Minister was quick to call the attack on the free press ‘completely unacceptable’, to which Labour leader Keir Starmer joined in condemning the group the following day.
There is simply no logic behind any of this. Not only did the group commit a criminal act, but the outcome of the entire thing was a failure. XR made more foes than ever before that day, as it is quite a rare occurrence that Johnson and Starmer can fully agree on something.
Protesting during a pandemic is inappropriate
Amongst other areas that XR should try to reflect upon however, are the lives of the people they are affecting - especially now. Although most of these self-proclaimed “rebels” are clearly in the luxurious position of having enough free time to protest, others unfortunately have to work.
In a time when many workers are returning to their jobs - some for the first time since lockdown began - protests like these are a slap in the face.
Now, however, social activity is much higher. Cabot Circus is no longer a deserted wasteland of shops. The streets of Clifton Village are bustling again. The Triangle and Park Street have been revived - the atmosphere of not only Bristol, but also the entire country is radically different.
Because of this, XR’s demonstrations were putting not just themselves at risk, but also everyone else around them.
In addition to the risks of the protests, we must also look at what XR is impatiently protesting for. The main agenda seems to be popularising their “Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill” (CEE Bill). One of the measures at the core of the Bill is the establishment of a Citizens’ Assembly (something XR has been pushing for a while now).
With an 80 per cent majority, the body can pass any measures they want so long as they do not require disbursement of public funds or charges upon the people—with or without the support of Parliament.
Protesting during a pandemic is inappropriate in itself but doing so for something that is so utterly unrealistic and unachievable is frankly insulting.
XR and their supporters ought to be ashamed of themselves for putting this country at a greater risk for their illogical agenda. They claim that there is no time to waste, yet it seems to me that the only time wasted is time dealing with XR.
Featured Image: Epigram / Lucy O'Neill
Do you think that XR's tactics cause more harm than good?