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A reported 300 rebels have been arrested on the first day of the Extinction protests in London, with hundreds more in cuffs at similar protests around the globe. The international movement has only just begun, but footage of campaigners being dragged away by police has already made the headlines.
With the violent scenes of protestors being captured and unchained from buildings, it's plausible to question whether a movement like this is too aggressive for it's own good. If the idea is to get people talking about the environment then why not opt for more peaceful methods of protest?
Robin Boardman, one of the cofounders of Extinction Rebellion, said:
“Over the rebellion, we must act with our consciences – to protect life from the apocalyptic future we face. To act accordingly to the truth, means disrupting business as usual to prevent a greater crime – the destruction of our ecosystems ...It is the disruption which focuses the national conversation on the issue at hand. Whatever a rebel’s role in the rebellion, they should be informed and respected for their decision.”
On the 3rd of October, a group of rebels sprayed fake blood onto the British Treasury with mixed responses...
Spraying the Treasury with fake blood is one thing. However, protestors are now being arrested for occupying street space with picket signs and chaining themselves to various things. Numerous items have been confiscated, ranging from portable loos to pink cushions.
So while the antics have been toned down from the 'Scarlet fever' at the Treasury, the rebels are still being labelled as violent and having things taken from them. Personally, whether I supported the movement or not, it would be preferable for them to have portable toilets to avoid the alternative.
Having spoken to people who are attending the protests, I've asked if they're nervous about getting arrested. Their answer surprised me. The most common response was that getting arrested and going to fight for the cause, was better than staying in a dreamland and sitting comfortably at home watching the chaos unfold and doing nothing.
I have to admit, I'm still uneasy about the whole 'Go to Jail' scenario. Though, I do admire people who have the determination to carry on regardless. Some of the images from the last couple of days where people chained themselves to gates and glued themselves to lorries have really struck me. In a true echo of British History, isn't that one of the ways that the WSPU got attention for the women's vote? So, perhaps, it works! On the other hand, the suffrage movement was also down to the NUWSS and their avid discussions involving men to seek peaceful change. But that is a History lesson for another day.
Overall, I think there is a slight issue with the scale of the rebellion. Though the campaign is designed to be non-violent, some people may take things a step too far. Nonetheless, they're getting more awareness for the environment than I've seen in my lifetime and for that they are unstoppable.
This article is the second of a five-part series of interviews with John that I will be broadcasting every day this week encouraging the discussion about climate change and protest.