XR Scotland doing some self-crit

Submitted by Tequila_Wolf in Green

In the last week, two widely-shared images have summed up deep-rooted problems at the heart of the Extinction Rebellion movement. One, a white man wearing a suit jacket being pulled off the top of a Tube train by people needing to get to work. In Canning Town, a mostly working class area of London that has been hit by years of austerity.

The other, a card and a bunch of flowers sent to police officers by an XR arrestee, thanking them for their ‘professionalism’. Brixton police station, where black men have died in custody.

These scenes have shown nothing new—XR has long been criticised for failing to connect with marginalised communities. But they have shown how urgently XR needs to openly address these issues.

A core message of XR has been ‘we are all in this together’. That climate catastrophe is coming for everyone, whatever class, race or creed, we can all be united by a common cause in the face of a shared threat.

BUT:

  • People in the Global South are already experiencing floods, drought, famine and unbearable heat that won't affect the North in same way.
  • They have been robbed of the resources to be resilient to climate change by the economic system that benefits the richest 1%.
  • People living in poverty, in both the Global South and North, due to structural injustice (often people of colour and disabled people) are and will be adversely affected in ways the rich are protected from.
  • Migration caused by impacts of climate and ecological emergency is met by hostile border policies that leave people to drown and keeps them in indefinite detention.

Yes, the crisis will come for everyone. But there are massively unjust ways this is damaging some people more than others. And when we erase that, when we ignore the voices of those on the frontlines and who have the most at stake, when we focus only on ‘our children’ and not the people who are dying now, we risk leaving space for eco-fascism. By refusing to name the causes of both the climate crisis and other social injustices–colonialism and capitalism—XR will continue to alienate the people who are already living at the sharp end of the system that is ultimately killing us all.

In the run-up to the October International Rebellion, members of XR Scotland chose to highlight these issues, and to respond to the concerns of women of colour in our group being dismissed by key figures in XR UK, by creating banners reading ‘DECOLONISE XR’ and ‘CLIMATE STRUGGLE = CLASS STRUGGLE’. Many people, and other groups in XR such as Extinction Rebellion Youth, Global Justice Rebellion and XR Internationalist Solidarity Network, applauded these banners. Others in XR UK questioned this ‘messaging’.

At last week’s roadblock action targeted at the Government Oil and Gas conference, protestors from groups other than XR Scotland began singing the chant ‘police, we love you, we’re doing this for your children too’.

A woman who was with the XR protest started to shout: ‘Say that to Stephen Lawrence and Mark Duggan’s family; say you love the police to the people of Tottenham. Say that to my friends whose lives are ruined by this system. Listen, if the people on that road were all people of colour they would be getting charged at with riot gear. My black and brown friends get stopped and searched EVERY DAY’. Other XR members told her off for raising her voice and talking about something that was ‘unrelated’.

While some Scottish rebels went around asking people individually not to sing that chant, another XRS rebel—a young woman of colour—took the megaphone to ask ‘please don’t sing that—it’s really alienating to people from marginalised communities’. A middle-aged white woman then took the megaphone away from her, to say that she does love the police, that she is doing this for their children, and her own children. A woman of colour’s critique was very literally silenced by the concerns of the white woman.

Narrating this incident is not to individually blame that white woman—her actions were a symptom of something systemic in both XR and wider society. But what it reminds the white, middle-class people that dominate our movement is to stop taking the megaphone. To be quiet, and listen.

After listening, what comes next is more difficult. How can XR use its resources in genuine solidarity? How do we shift from being an overwhelmingly white and middle-class movement to centring those who have been excluded? And without tokenism, or requiring disabled, working class and people of colour to do the work that those with more privilege should have done long ago? But taking the time to listen, absorb, and reflect, is the essential first step.

Recommended recent critiques of XR:

#SolidarityNotSilence #DecoloniseXR #EverybodyNow

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throwaway1021 wrote (edited )

Agreed that it is rather NIMBYesque to focus just on "our children" and "our future" rather than millions that are and have been suffering and dying from environmental collapse.

As a white male, I should probably just shut up about this already. Please just stop reading here, if you've heard enough from young white males.

If you're still reading, I'd like to add that there were actions at several tube stations. That morning I was arrested for endangering the railway at Stratford which, being near Westfield, is arguably more posh. (We didn't get onto the train as a member of the public grabbed our ladder.)

I wish there was a way that we could acknowledge the pain that primarily BAME people have suffered at the hand of police while at the same time avoiding confrontational and aggressive communication towards those workers in high viz during blockades. Are we really certain that those two paths cannot meet??

How I've seen it, this love bombing and de-escalation with police comes from acknowledging that police can be (and are often) extremely violent and therefore intentionally trying to reduce the risk of violence and injury for protesters, so that people can join who may otherwise feel unsafe at more upbeat protests. I may be wrong. I'm aware it's a very unpopular view here on this forum, as can be seen here.

Yes, I believe it was all white people doing the tube actions. One article critical of XR, that I tried to take to heart, is titled Stop Asking People of Color to Get Arrested to Protest Climate Change. Is it then not only fair that white people acknowledge their privilege by taking their part in those riskier actions?

I personally agree with much of the criticism of XR but I feel at the end of my wits about environmental collapse. I feel unable to not do anything drastic so I'm therefore not too concerned what banner it's under.

(Yes, I know already it was probably not a good idea to post this here... Sorry)

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Chylan wrote

Yes, I know already it was probably not a good idea to post this here... Sorry

No way! It was very interesting to read about your point of view. I'm not very into all this XR thing, so I have nothing to add to the conversation, but I'm sure you'll have healthy discussion with Raddle community.

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[deleted] wrote

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throwaway1021 wrote (edited )

XR Landlords, yikes! Why, oh, why?! That is just ... I don't have the words.

Doesn't make me want to distance myself from XR though; just like the existence of ancaps doesn't make me want to denounce anarchism, if that makes sense?

XR Police..? It could be really disgustingly bad, but it could also be sweetly subversive, depending on how it's carried out. I don't know enough about it yet. It could be powerful to be open and receptive towards police expressing their concerns about climate crisis, without necessarily expecting them to quit their jobs and lose their livelihood as a consequence. If there are many officers that are openly supporting environmental activism that could be benefitial, so let's invite them to do that, no? I don't want to assume that those employed as officers are necessarily climate deniers and flat earthers just because they have the job they have.

I have spoken to officers that have felt uncomfortable policing protests, because they'd rather prevent suicides, assaults and domestic abuse, and feel like policing protests is meaningless.

Don't get me wrong, I see many issues with police. Where I live there's also a massive issue with police disregarding violence towards street workers and arresting them at the places they can get support. I have been at the hard end of police violence.

I was rugby tackled from behind and forcefully removed while being super-glued to a gate. No permanent injuries though. I was still trying to talk politely and kindly to the officer that knocked me out, and I am sure that here that would be defined as masochistic boot-licking, but I really don't see it that way myself. I think it can be really powerful (but by this I am not trying to dismiss other people's protests or disregard the suffering of others, and I am not trying to suggest that other ways of dealing with police are wrong).

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Splinglebot wrote

I was still trying to talk politely and kindly to the officer that knocked me out, and I am sure that here that would be defined as masochistic boot-licking

yup

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[deleted] wrote (edited )

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throwaway1021 wrote (edited )

Sorry, I think it's an interesting question you asked, and I didn't mean to for my answer to be dismissive of your concerns.

This is not something I feel certain about at all myself, so I appreciate hearing your view. Thanks.

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[deleted] wrote (edited )

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throwaway1021 wrote

Just been a month in prison. Probably going in there again for the tube action.

Four environmental activists are murdered every week.

It saddens and worries me. I don't know what to do.

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[deleted] wrote (edited )

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throwaway1021 wrote

OK, I'll keep this to myself now.

Thanks for listening, and thanks for sharing your views.

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[deleted] wrote (edited )

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throwaway1021 wrote

For clarification, may I ask which of my activities you'd see as "working with police" ?

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[deleted] wrote (edited )

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throwaway1021 wrote (edited )

No, personally I don't think all of them are bad all the time (by which I am not intending to justify the concept of policing, but rather acknowledging that the world is more nuanced and complicated than what can be expressed in an all-or-nothing statement, and that those who are employed as police are also individual human beings aside from being state agents; and by which I am not contesting that many or most officers do bad things often or most of the time.)

And even if they are all bad all the time, we still need a conversation about what to do about that; how to do damage-control, de-escalation, etc, no?

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[deleted] wrote (edited )

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throwaway1021 wrote (edited )

How's that leather taste?

I do worry that you may be assuming the worst possible intentions from my side, and I don't feel like your paraphrasing of me captures what I was trying to put across.

I have to say that I feel like this discussion got unnecessarily tense very quickly, and I am sorry for what I may have been contributing to that.

Will have to leave it here. Thanks for taking time to talk with me, friend. I will think about what you have shared with me.

All the best.

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