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Extinction Rebellion: civil disobedience and direct action

Images of French police pepper-spraying climate protesters in Paris last Friday have gone viral and sparked outrage around the world. The demonstration was held by Extinction Rebellion, a movement that began in the UK last year but has since expanded around the globe.

The movement was officially launched in October 31, 2018, when around a 1,000 people protested outside the UK parliament in what organisers said was a “Declaration of Rebellion”.

It was started by activists from the campaign group Rising Up! while almost 100 senior academics from across the UK gave their backing, saying in an open letter it was “unconscionable to us that our children and grandchildren should have to bear the terrifying brunt of an unprecedented disaster of our own making”.

To avoid that scenario, the group has three core demands: that governments “tell the truth” about climate change by declaring environmental emergencies and conveying the urgency of the situation to the public, that they commit to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and that ‘citizens’ assemblies’ are set up to oversee climate change policy.

Its methods though have at times proved controversial. The group follows a strategy of civil disobedience and direct action, including staging sit-ins and disrupting public spaces such as roads and bridges. Hundreds of its members have been arrested in the process.

Activists have also caused damage to property, including smashing windows, something the group calls an “escalation strategy, necessary to grab public attention

The group’s headline-grabbing tactics have helped it become a major protest movement in the UK, with 130 Extinction Rebellion groups across the country.

In April this year, it held one of its biggest demonstrations yet, occupying parts of central London for 11 consecutive days.

Extinction Rebellion groups have now sprung up around the world from Australia to the United States.

It now has more than a million members worldwide including more than 4,000 in France.

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