XR UK CLARIFICATION ON RECENT ANTI SUV CAMPAIGNS
March 14, 2022 by Extinction Rebellion
A campaign tactic is re-emerging in the climate movement, with multiple groups and autonomous individuals carrying out acts of disobedience by letting down the tyres of SUVs. The purpose is to bring the vast emissions of these vehicles into immediate view through disruptive action, relating both to climate and pollution impacts. Some of the groups we have heard of are called; The Tyre Extinguishers, The Last Gasp, and Tyred of SUVs.
XR UK is always glad to see new groups joining the work of civil disobedience, for there to be more innovation in campaign tactics, and to broaden the work for rapid change. However, XR UK is not responsible for these actions, and this statement is to clarify some technical differences to consider;
Accountability – XR UK undertakes accountable nonviolent civil disobedience, meaning rebels take the legal repercussions of the things they do. We operate in an open and transparent way, and are visible in action. This does not mean that we need to judge others who are working differently, but just to state that our movement operates ‘above ground’ by design.
Targeting individuals property – XR has taken some actions involving criminal damage for which we claimed responsibility, but we do not target the property of private individuals.
Focus on individual lifestyle – XR was set up with the ambition to achieve structural political change that can lead to a strengthening of democracy, to let citizens decide what should be done to tackle the climate and ecological crises. Whilst we welcome individual lifestyle changes we recognise our place in the movement ecology as focussing on structural change.
Why might some activists take action covertly?
(a note from the XR UKEmbedding Nonviolence team)
Perhaps the most important reason some people choose to take action covertly can be because it is considered too difficult or too dangerous to take action in which they are accountable afterwards. Some people are more at risk or more vulnerable to adverse consequences of actions than others, and some political contexts are safer than others. Some are unable to give the commitment needed to take accountable action, often with inevitable legal consequences. People with more privilege are often in an easier position to take the risks involved in open and accountable action. However, the visibility that accountability gives to individuals can also be a strength because it often means that the way people are treated by the authorities can be more easily scrutinised and documented, which can function as a form of protection. Everyone has to decide for themselves what type of action is best suited for them considering their personal and material resources, political context as well as their privilege.
Open, accountable and nonviolent actions are risky, yet they have been carried out by marginalised peoples, and in dangerous contexts and have been effective, sometimes remarkably so. The US civil rights movement and the anti-globalisation mass mobilisation in Seattle in 1999 are two of many examples.