By Sophie Squire
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Extinction Rebellion tell the government, ‘We’re ready for direct action’

It comes after thousands of people descended on Parliament Square in London to join XR’s four-day protest
Issue 2852
Extinction Rebellion supporters marching behind a huge green banner that reads no nature no future

Extinction Rebellion supporters on the march in London last Saturday (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The climate crisis ­campaigners Extinction Rebellion (XR) are poised to return to militant direct action tactics. The move comes after the government failed to respond to its demands to immediately halt the search for new fossil fuels.

The Greenpeace and War on Want groups had joined with XR to also insist ­ministers organise emergency citizen’s assemblies to discuss how to end the fossil fuel era “quickly and fairly”. They gave the ­government until Monday this week to answer their call, but no reply came.

Now the campaigners have vowed to step up their actions across Britain to force them to do so “Four months ago, XR announced ‘We quit’ and entered into a period of alliance-building with other movements and groups by temporarily stepping back from our tactics of civil ­disobedience,” said Rob Callender, of the group.

“Since then, the government has made policy announcements that effectively double down on deadly climate chaos.

“This is their last chance to show us that they are serious about saving our lives and our futures by agreeing to enter negotiations around our demands.

“A failure to do so will mean that XR has no choice but to unquit. This time, we’re not alone—allies from this 200-strong bloc will be stepping up alongside us.”

The move comes after ­thousands of people descended on Parliament Square in London from last Friday to join XR’s four-day protest, dubbed the “Big One”.

The weekend’s high point was a series of large marches on Saturday, with activists elsewhere taking part in die‑ins. The marches showed that XR can still mobilise onto the streets for protests.

But the Big One was smaller than XR would have liked. The group aimed to bring 100,000 people to parliament but across the weekend, there was likely only half of that number on the streets.

Events on Friday and Sunday were much more focused on “alliance building” with other groups, with activists moving between stalls that had been set up around parliament. Some 200 groups signed up to support the Big One, but only a handful had any kind of presence at the demonstration.

Trade unions had almost no official presence. Dropping radical action blunted the protest’s impact, but didn’t boost numbers.

Sam is a supporter of the radical campaign group Just Stop Oil. He told Socialist Worker, “We’re here to support XR in the call to end all oil licenses,” he said. “But from Monday we will take action of our own in the form of slow marches on the road.

“We’ll be doing that for as long as it takes for our demands to be met. I still believe that disruptive action is the only way to make change. It’s the only thing the media actually pays attention to.

“The bottom line is we have a rapidly closing window to save the planet, and we must do everything possible.”

Activist Ruerdje came from the Netherlands to join the Big One. “I didn’t really agree with XR’s ‘we quit’ statement,” she said. “I think it was too defeatist, and I think it could have lowered morale.

“I think we need to ­continue to use disruptive tactics, but I think this should be coupled with mass action. I think these two tactics should go hand in hand. I want to see masses of people come together and use disruptive tactics to stop, for example, a coal mine being built.”

Some ­newspapers applauded XR’s earlier move away from direct action. The Financial Times wrote a long article about how ­stopping disruption will make it more likely the banks and the bosses will back the group’s demands.

But the Tories and the bosses won’t be politely persuaded by climate activists to ditch the policies that are killing the planet. Instead they are still ramping up repression against them.

Last Friday two Just Stop Oil protesters who scaled the Dartford Crossing bridge were sentenced to jail for causing a public nuisance. Morgan Trowland was jailed for three years and Marcus Decker for two years and seven months. They scaled the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge last October.

The case shows just how hard the state is prepared to clampdown on protest—and why it’s right to return to the direct action battlefield.

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