Extinction Rebellion: crossing the line?

Michael Abberton
4 min readJun 4, 2021

Vote as we say or else… XR moves from political persuasion & protest to punish those who don’t do as they’re told

The aftermath of the Cambridge XR attack on Alex Wood Hall

Extinction Rebellion (XR) claims to be a pressure group prepared to take violent direct action in order to emphasise the critical danger of climate change, and protest political and societal inaction or even complacency towards what could literally be the end of the world as we know it. The danger is real, and up to this point I have supported their actions, even though some have been perhaps ill-advised and at worst, counter-productive. But this week, they staged an attack which reveals an extremely worrying and dangerous change in direction in the nature and motive of their actions, and for these reasons, I will no longer support or defend them. I’d encourage individuals and other campaign groups to seriously reconsider too.

Over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend (May 2021), XR in Cambridge (UK) attacked the local Labour Party HQ and community centre with oil based paint, showering the walls, windows and sign, and painted stencilled slogans onto the doors. In the process, they also splattered two parked cars, covered the pavement and left a trail of dribbled paint and footprints along the street and into a local graveyard. The building they attacked stands at the centre of the community, also hosting a charity that provides counselling for victims of sexual abuse.

XR said in their statement that this was in response to Labour Cambridge city councillors rejection of a motion, proposed by the local Green Party, in support of the Climate and Ecological Emergency parliamentary bill. So it would seem that this action was not done in order to gain support or influence political will, but as a punishment for not acting in the way XR would have liked. And here is where the danger lies.

XR defines what it terms Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA) as “methods of protest and non-cooperation that don’t harm others”, referencing a very narrow definition of violence as being an act “committed against someone rather than something.” In this instance, the attack was not against a corporation, or even the national headquarters of a political party, but at a community. In the defence of the action on social media, supporters compared themselves to the suffragist movement. This comparison…

Michael Abberton

Tomahawk thrower, writer, trade unionist, Japanese speaker and all around good guy.