150 Public Figures Defend Extinction Rebellion Against ‘Organised Crime Group’ Classification

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More than 150 public figures, including actors Stephen Fry and Mark Rylance, have stood behind Extinction Rebellion against the U.K. government’s moves to classify the activist organisation as an “organised crime group”. In a letter, the government is criticised for attempting to scapegoat the protesters and is taking the spotlight away from the urgent need to take action on the real threat – climate change. 

Among the 150 public figures signing the letter, which is to be published in the Observer, are Stephen Fry, Mark Rylance, sculptor Antony Gormley and artist Cornelia Parker OBE. It came in response to prime minister Boris Johnson his government’s reported moves to review how Extinction Rebellion (XR) is classified in law after the group’s protest against the distribution of four national newspapers last week. Johnson has accused the protest as action that “undermined” the free press. 

Extinction Rebellion has helped push the government’s failure to act on the climate and ecological emergency into the public eye. Whether or not we agree with their tactics or targets, by blocking printing presses and delaying newspaper distribution, they have connected the dots of a broken system.

The letter, however, disagrees that XR is an “organised crime group” and instead argues that the organisation represents a “group of people who are holding the powerful to account.”

“Extinction Rebellion has helped push the government’s failure to act on the climate and ecological emergency into the public eye. Whether or not we agree with their tactics or targets, by blocking printing presses and delaying newspaper distribution, they have connected the dots of a broken system,” the authors wrote. 

“For the past 30 years, there’s been a woeful lack of serious reporting on the climate and ecological emergency due to the billionaire owners’ vested interests, and a lack of understanding from reporters, to editors to senior executives, about the severity and scale of the crisis. This has meant a terrifying delay on action to combat climate change.”

The letter also mentions that the coronavirus death toll in the U.K. and its planned recovery strategy that would “allocate billions of taxpayer’s money to the fossil fuel economy” as clear demonstrations that the government has failed the public. It highlights XR protesters and activists as ordinary people, including the elderly and children, who are voicing their concerns over the continued delay on combating climate change, which could leave behind devastating consequences in the near future. 

For the past 30 years, there’s been a woeful lack of serious reporting on the climate and ecological emergency due to the billionaire owners’ vested interests, and a lack of understanding from reporters, to editors to senior executives, about the severity and scale of the crisis. This has meant a terrifying delay on action to combat climate change.

It’s ridiculous to be calling them criminals when actually it is lackadaisical and inept actions of the government and indeed, those in charge of massive corporations, that should be doing much, much more,” Gormley told the Guardian

“Their strategy is constantly trying to find new pressure points to make us act. I’m not convinced that all of their activities can be totally justified. However, the fundamental reasons for them wanting to raise consciousness are absolutely justified.”

Climate scientists have been consistently sounding the alarm on the climate crisis, warning that unless immediate action is taken to slash emissions and limit temperature rise, we may not be able to avoid climate collapse. 

Under a business-as-usual approach, one-third of the global population will live in temperatures too hot to survive, a recent study found. Other research estimates that if greenhouse gas emissions are not drastically reduced, the number of deaths as a result could potentially be higher than that caused by all infectious diseases combined.


Lead image courtesy of Extinction Rebellion UK Twitter.


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