Climate change protesters who have brought parts of London to a standstill said that they were prepared to call a halt if the U.K. government would discuss their demands. The question is, will the British Government accept the proposition of negotiating with the protestors?
Extinction Rebellion is a socio-political movement which uses nonviolent resistance to avert climate breakdown, halt biodiversity loss, and minimise the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse.
Extinction Rebellion was established in the United Kingdom in May 2018 with about one hundred academics signing a call to action in support in October 2018. Citing inspiration from grassroots movements such as Occupy, Gandhi's independence movement, the suffragettes, and Martin Luther King and others in the civil rights movement, Extinction Rebellion wants to rally support worldwide around a common sense of urgency to tackle climate breakdown.
In an ongoing action, in April 2019 XR occupied four prominent sites in central London: Oxford Circus, Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge and the area around Parliament Square.
Extinction Rebellion was established last year in the U.K. by academics and has become one of the world’s fastest-growing environmental movements.
So far, some 831 arrests have been made and 42 people charged in connection with the ongoing Extinction Rebellion protests.
On the seventh day of the demonstrations, which have occupied key spots in the British capital, Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed the protesters, telling them: “Humanity is standing at a crossroads.” Organizers said they were willing to switch tactics from disruption to dialogue — if the government entered talks. “We are prepared to pause, should the government come to the negotiating table,” Extinction Rebellion spokesman said.
Campaigners want governments to declare a climate and ecological emergency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025, halt biodiversity loss and be led by new citizens’ assemblies on climate and ecological justice. “We’re giving them an opportunity now to come and speak to us,” said Fox. “If they don’t take that opportunity, and if they refuse to come and negotiate with us, then this is going to continue and this is going to escalate in different, diverse and very creative ways.”
Thunberg, the 16-year-old activist who has inspired pupils worldwide to boycott classes to join climate protests, addressed cheering crowds at the Marble Arch landmark — the only authorized demonstration site. Police said they had managed to clear the protesters from Parliament Square, and the Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus junctions.
Those charged range in age from 19 to 77. They hail from around England and Wales, with one person from France charged. The charges are for various offences including breaching public order laws, obstructing a highway and obstructing police.
Calling for an end to the protests, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said more than 9,000 police officers had been responding to the demonstrations, which had left the force as a whole overstretched. “This is now taking a real toll on our city — our communities, businesses and police. This is counter-productive to the cause and our city,” he said. “I’m extremely concerned about the impact the protests are having on our ability to tackle issues like violent crime if they continue any longer. It simply isn’t right to put Londoners’ safety at risk. You must now let London return to business as usual.”
In blazing sunshine on Waterloo Bridge, police lifted protesters and carried them off to waiting police vans. “I’m genuinely terrified. I think about it all the time. I’m so scared for the world. I feel like there is going to be calamity in my lifetime,” said student Amber Gray. “I don’t even feel comfortable bringing children into this world knowing that that is coming. And I don’t want people in the future to say to me, ‘why didn’t you do anything?'”
Our assessment is that the British will seriously consider accepting Extinction Rebellion’s invite for a negotiation over climate change action but it is unlikely that they will give up any power on planning for the future to XR. We believe that more inclusive democratic movements are required in modern societies if extinction level threats like man-made climate change are to be countered. We also feel that XR was boosted by the previous Global school strikes for climate change where school children missed school in order to protest against government inaction on climate change.
Image Courtesy: DAVID HOLT from London, England, London February 22 2019 (30) Extinction Rebellion Tell the Truth Protest (46455131464), CC BY 2.0