For the past month Britain’s roads have been held hostage by Insulate Britain (IB), the direct-action group spun out of Extinction Rebellion (XR). The favoured tactic of the eco-warriors is to initiate roadblocks at which activists glue themselves to roads to make them inaccessible to vehicles. The device has inspired much anger among motorists, with polling suggesting that most of the public believe it only serves to turn voters off IB and its green demands.
Now it seems many within the XR movement are themselves growing sick of IB’s road-block methods, amid scenes of ambulances being detained in their traffic jams. Leaked screenshots from one of the WhatsApp groups by which XR co-ordinate their activities show the rising irritation of members at Insulate Britain’s ‘incredibly problematic’ and ‘stupid’ stunts. Many within XR are now questioning whether they should continue to allow IB to use its Police Station Support network.
A whistle-blower within the movement has sent Mr S a tranche of messages from the past week in which the splits between activists are made clear. Asked ‘Should XR move away from mass roadblocks? What can XR do to remain effective while moving away from that?’ members of the group piled in with their thoughts as to whether roadblocks should be abandoned.
Some defended the use of such disruptive devices. One argued that XR founder Roger Hallam was ‘brave’ to ‘put the potential mortality/morbidity of a small number of people on the line against the very real and actual deaths that have occurred and continue to occur as part of the government inaction’ on climate change.
They added: ‘Every choice and action carries a risk of hurting someone and every decision has balance means and end’ while another claimed: ‘Blocking an ambulance is stupid but also the theoretical risk of it is minimal in comparison with the actual risk that is happening due to insulation, flooding, air pollution.’ Cold comfort to the people in those detained ambulances eh?
— Anonymous Mole (@Anonymous_Mole_) October 12, 2021
Extinction Rebellion has spent much of the past week wrangling with itself over whether to continue allowing Insulate Britain to use its Police Station Support network.Apparently, they have some concerns about 'racism'... 👀Expect the full story from @MrSteerpike shortly.
Most, however, did not share this view. In response to the activist who defended Hallam, one called their views a ‘terrorist and revenge ideology’ adding that ‘I used to be incredibly active in XR… but with these attitudes I don’t feel at all comfortable at re-engaging. I was the first to call out the government for putting us on the PREVENT list, but rhetoric like yours and Hallams moves to justifying it.’ Ouch.
Others took aim at IB for being ‘committed to using old XR tactics, ideology and messaging that seems to be largely ineffective and alienating to white working-class communities and BIPOC communities.’ Another activist criticised Insulate Britain for stirring ‘up the class and racial fault lines in the environmental movement in general’ as ‘many of the people on the road (in cars) care about climate change, but they also need to feed their families and save for retirement etc.’
Most though were angry at the impact of IB’s disruption on ordinary people. One wrote: ‘I just don’t get why people are defending them blocking the largest travel routes that disproportionately affect lower income people who are often on 0 hour contracts with poor working conditions.’ Others on the group chat agreed, writing that ‘It’s not hard to move for an ambulance. It’s not like they’re in some huge moral dilemma over it. It’s just selfishness and should be flat out called out rather than pandering around their ignorance and stupidity.’
A third added ‘It again highlights the disconnect between activists and the real world. I guarantee most activists wouldn’t be sacrificing a single days work if it depended on them being able to afford to live.’ One summarised simply that ‘the main point is IB is incredibly problematic and should be actively distanced at all costs.’
When even Extinction Rebellion are distancing themselves, you know you’ve got a problem.