Extinction Rebellion Protests Target Murdochs and the Media

Photo: Joe T., Extinction Rebellion

By Julia Fine, ODP Contributing Writer

Last week in the UK, the Extinction Rebellion (XR) continued their protests, this time targeted newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch.  The police arrested “more than 70 environmental activists who blockaded two British printing plants, disrupting the distribution of several national newspapers,” as the Associated Press reported.  And this week, among their protest stunts, they staged a mock “crime scene investigation” at Shell’s London Headquarters arguing the company engaged in decades of environmental destruction.  The protests will end today, after hundreds of arrests over the nearly two weeks of protests.

Why This Matters: While many figures in the UK, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, quickly condemned the XR act as an attack on the free press, freedom of speech extends to protests too. The XR protests were intended to “expose the failure of these corporations to accurately report on the climate and ecological emergency, and their consistent manipulation of the truth to suit their own personal and political agendas.  And they succeeded in drawing attention to the climate emergency and the fact that conservative media often does not report on it. Even the media can and should be held accountable.

The Criminalization of Protests

Figures both in the UK and abroad have been harshly criticizing XR’s tactics. Prominently, Priti Patel, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, castigated the group, saying “I refuse point blank to allow that kind of anarchy on our streets and I’m right behind [the police] as you bring the full might of the law down upon that selfish minority.” Patel continues, ““The very criminals who disrupt our free society must be stopped and together we must all stand firm against the guerilla tactics of Extinction Rebellion,” as the Independent reported.

This characterization of XR, as others have noted, is “spine-chilling.” According to Nick Aldworth, a former counter-terrorism official, such suggestions that groups like XR would be reclassified as “terrorist or organised crime groups ‘are actuallly subversions of the intension of the law.’” He also noted that, “That is hardly an accurate description of the thousands or ordinary people – the nurses, the doctors, the grandparents and others – who take part in Extinction Rebellion’s non-violent protests.”

Previous Home Secretaries have echoed Aldworth’s characterization; for instance, Diane Abbott told news outlets that “They are not criminals… they are protestors and activists, in tradition of the Suffragettes and the Hunger Marchers of the 1930s.”

A Broader Week of Actions

Extinction Rebellion is continuing to use protest tactics in order to push for action on climate change. As TimeOut reported, the group is “currently engaged in a peaceful mass action in Parliament Square to highlight the growing ecological crisis.”

This week, following TimeOut, XR is “intending to deliver litter to Coca-Cola’s UK headquarters in Marylebone to demonstrate against what it claims are the company’s contribution to global pollution and alleged treatment of its workers in some countries,” among other actions.

This recent wave of criticism isn’t the only kind of condemnation leveled against the group. Many have characterized XR as catering to the concerns of white middle-class activists, particularly due to its encouraging of protesters to get arrested.

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