In Depth

What is Extinction Rebellion and what does it want?

Environmental group is back in the spotlight after its Whitehall fake blood stunt

Environmental activists from the Extinction Rebellion protest group have sprayed fake blood over the Treasury building in Westminster.

Members of the group drove an old fire engine to the front of the 100-year-old building on Horse Guards Road, which they intended to douse with 1,800 litres of blood-coloured beetroot water.

But the powerful hose proved too much for the protesters - none of whom was a firefighter - and the red liquid ended up spraying all over the pavement and road rather than the building’s facade.

Five men and three women - aged between 34 and 83 - were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage, says the BBC.

As he was being escorted to a police van, 83-year-old Phil Kingston said the Treasury was doing “dreadful things”, The Guardian reports.

“I fight with all my being for my four grandchildren in this situation of existential danger,” he added.

Extinction Rebellion says its members are “highlighting the inconsistency between the UK government’s insistence that the UK is a world leader in tackling climate breakdown and the vast sums it pours into fossil fuel exploration and carbon-intensive projects”.

The Treasury protest comes days before the start of a fortnight-long “international rebellion” on Monday. Extinction Rebellion has said it will “peacefully occupy the centres of power and shut them down” until governments take action to resolve the climate emergency.

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What is Extinction Rebellion?

Launched in October 2018 by Roger Hallam, Gail Bradbrook, Simon Bramwell and other veteran environmental activists, Extinction Rebellion is named after the Holocene extinction – also referred to as the Anthropocene extinction – a hypothetical event based on the belief that Earth’s geological record has been transformed beyond repair by humanity, leading to the destruction of numerous other living creatures and plants and ultimately to that of the planet.

The group staged its first major protest in Parliament Square on 31 October last year and has remained active. Organisers say that next week’s demonstrations in London will be part of a worldwide protest movement spanning 60 cities.

Extinction Rebellion holds that disruptive but non-violent civil disobedience is the only way to make governments take action on the escalating climate crisis.

“The aim is to make these most critical and urgent issues of our time finally unignorable to decision makers. If they want less disruption, they must act,” says the XR website.

“You might call it visceral politics,” Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Jamie Kelsey Fry told reporters. “It's a visceral reaction. Either you stand up now and you're on the right side of history or you’re not.”

What are its demands?

The group wants the UK and other governments to take “real emergency action” to tackle the climate crisis.

It has a three-point list of demands for the UK Government. The first is that it must “tell the truth” by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, and work with other institutions to communicate the urgent need for change.

The second demand is that the Government “acts now” to cut emissions.

And the third demand is that the Government must agree to create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

In July, six House of Commons select committees announced joint plans to hold a Citizens’ Assembly on combatting climate change and achieving the pathway to net zero carbon emissions.

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