Extinction Rebellion Debuts in U.S., Launches Week of Protest in Europe
The UK-based Extinction Rebellion is mounting its major debut in the United States, as part of a coordinated week of protests April 15-22 aimed at drawing attention to climate change and amping up public response to the crisis.
“Some activists hope the arrival of Extinction Rebellion will be a watershed moment for the U.S. environmental movement, shifting it from what they see as a tepid response to the cavalcade of disasters threatening the livability of the planet,” The Guardian reports. “Extinction Rebellion is aimed at spurring a muscular, punkish outpouring of civil disobedience, snarling cities and frogmarching politicians towards meaningful action.”
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“This is a coordinated rebellion that targets industry and government indefinitely, to shut the country down,” said Eureka, California-based organizer Bob Ruiz. “In my 30 years plus of activism I’ve never seen so many everyday people worried in such a visceral way, for themselves, their children, their grandchildren. It’s unprecedented.”
“Governments have failed us,” added Bea Ruiz, XR’s national coordinator in the U.S. “Those who are most vulnerable and least responsible for this crisis are the ones who are suffering the most. People are dying. Species are disappearing. Everything is at stake.”
Moreover, “the mainstream environmental movement has been asking so little of people here, whereas we are saying, ‘We are in danger and we are asking you to act accordingly,’” Ben Ruiz told The Guardian. “Very commonly, the big environmental groups will send emails saying, ‘Donate $5 today, call your congressman’, and then ask for very symbolic action where people won’t be held for long.”
In the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1960s, “the Freedom Riders signed their wills before they got on the buses,” he added. “We have no time left. We have no time for incrementalism.”
The Guardian cites seasoned climate campaigners in the U.S. who dispute XR’s contention that their response to the Trump administration’s climate agenda has been any less robust than protests in Europe. The coverage also points to the added urgency brought into focus by last fall’s IPCC report on 1.5°C pathways, with its 12-year (now 11½-year, and counting) deadline to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions 45%.
“I think it’s crazy that we have to do this in order to get politicians to act on the greatest crisis we face, but manifestly, we do,” said 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben. “Non-violent direct action is never an end in itself, but carefully used it underlines the moral urgency of the moment. I think it mostly needs to become bigger, everywhere. And dramatic action—conducted with care, so that people aren’t turned off—has a serious role to play in that.”Common Dreams has an illustrated update on protest activities in London, where protesters shut down the Waterloo Bridge and Oxford circus, and in Stockholm and Berlin. “One day I want to have kids,” said one London protester. “But I don’t think I can. I don’t see a future that’s livable at the moment.”