Extinction Rebellion leaders are considering a series of ‘extreme’ protests to disrupt this year’s UN climate change summit in Glasgow – including a possible hunger strike that ends in death or a demonstrator publicly committing suicide.
The activists are also proposing to spray traffic lights black, close motorways and road tunnels and carry out ‘industrial sabotage’, according to insider documents obtained by The Scottish Mail on Sunday.
The papers were drawn up by Extinction Rebellion’s ‘Action Strategy Group’, which is responsible for planning future protests and the form they should take.
They say the time has come for a ‘temporary moratorium on our traditional “midground” arrestable actions’, such as the occupations of central London streets which took place twice last year.
In their place should be a new wave of ‘higher risk protests’, to be justified by ‘our own vulnerability in terms of the imminent threats to our food systems and economy, the risk of fascism, famine, disease and war’.
Among ‘top ideas’ the group has discussed are a ‘hunger strike to the death’ and even people possibly prepared for ‘suicide’.
The documents say disrupting the Glasgow conference, known as COP26, will be the ‘pinnacle of our action campaign this year’.
They add: ‘The COP UN Climate Change Summit due to be held in Glasgow in November is a tool of a broken system. ‘Presented by some as our last hope for change, it will not give us the solutions we need. So our 2020 rebellion will culminate in Glasgow but will look beyond COP as we explore internationalist solutions… leading to a Global Citizens’ Assembly on Climate and Ecological Justice.’
Up to 200 world leaders are expected to attend the event, with around 30,000 delegates and campaigners.
One document, headed ‘Vital Additions to Actions Strategy’, outlines ‘a set of core principles and projects’ that are regarded as ‘essential’ and includes a section on ‘extremes of sacrifice’.
It states: ‘As the climate and ecological emergency becomes more dangerous every day, we must encourage more extreme actions to achieve meaningful change.’
This movement must not become ineffectual and forget its rebellious heart as it grows. Extreme self-sacrificial actions can act as a vanguard for the movement, inspiring people in their rebellious journey and focusing the world’s attention.’
It adds: ‘It also seems necessary for the movement to clearly outline in any strategy going forward, the intention to encourage more extreme action in response to genuine growing crisis so as not to face pushback from the movement as a whole every time a highly sacrificial action takes place.’
The document also suggests that the eco-protest movement – also known as XR – is well aware of the widespread fury triggered when its ‘rebels’ climbed on top of a tube train in a poor area of London in October and disrupted thousands of commuters’ journeys to work.
The incident was depicted in videos showing XR protesters being pelted with missiles and pulled off the train. The October protest ‘was arguably problematic for the movement’, the document admits, and was ‘alienating’. Unfortunately, the document says, ‘at the present time, we simply do not have the numbers needed to achieve our goals through mass civil disobedience’.
The answer is to ‘focus on extremes of sacrifice levels’, with ‘extreme self-sacrificial actions [that] can act as a vanguard for the movement, inspiring people in their rebellious journey and focusing the world’s attention.’ The document says the hunger strike until death will be ‘a high sacrifice action with ongoing support… [we need to] go to extremes of sacrifice levels.
‘For such high-risk actions, action design must be slick and highly considered.’
In its view, ‘more extreme actions’ will ‘achieve meaningful change’. According to the document, Extinction Rebellion needs to ‘scare the f*** out of people’, by encouraging them to experience ‘fear of death’ from ‘famine’ and pollution.
It should foster a ‘fear of hell, hell on Earth, fire and floods,’ and make use of ‘children and vulnerable people on the front line’.
XR’s willingness to undertake more extreme forms of protest was hinted at by its founder, Roger Hallam, a former organic farmer, in an interview with a Swiss newspaper this year. He said: ‘Civil disobedience is not for cowards. Martin Luther King also made people sit on the streets. He also knew that, statistically someone would die… Our activists know what they’re doing and what they’re getting into.’
Other documents seen by the MoS outline the movement’s large and growing income and expenditure. Last year it received more than £4 million from crowd-funding and donors. As of December, it was paying ‘living expenses’ – in other words, salaries – to 120 staff.
Last night, an Extinction Rebellion spokesman said: ‘These notes are an informal list of ideas gathered from people during brainstorming, they have not informed Extinction Rebellion’s 2020 strategy.
‘As with any brainstorm, people would likely be encouraged to think broadly – that doesn’t mean that these ideas should or would be taken further, or out of context.
‘Yes, we, humanity, are in an extreme situation. Would Extinction Rebellion encourage people to engage in non-violent peaceful civil disobedience? Yes. Would Extinction Rebellion encourage anyone to put their own life at risk or the life of others? No.’
Last month, MoS told how the safety of world leaders had been put at risk after sensitive blueprints of the summit site were put online by bungling civil servants.
The UK Government admitted the documents had been uploaded in error and quickly removed them.