The environmental activist cult known as Extinction Rebellion, which has been disrupting traffic in major cities with “climate strikes” and engaging in hunger strike theatrics, has been deemed too white by CNN reporter Aimee Lewis.

Lewis reviewed protests the group held, which caused massive chaos at a working-class London train station and inspired commuters to drag the protesters off the roof of trains, where they had placed themselves.

Lewis notes that critics of the group’s antics say that green justice activists demonstrate a lack of sympathy for non-white, working-class people.

The protest at Canning Town — one of three London tube stations targeted at the end of two weeks of large-scale disruptions in the
city — highlighted what many argue is the problem with mass environmental movements: they are too white, too middle class, and lacking in empathy for the least well-off in society.

A 2014 University of Michigan study that looked into 293 mainstream NGOs, foundations and government agencies found that the “current state of racial diversity in environmental organizations is troubling.” It concluded that the percentage of minorities employed as staff or on the boards of the organizations studied did not exceed 16%.

“Once hired in environmental organizations, ethnic minorities are concentrated in the lower ranks. As a result, ethnic minorities occupy less than 12% of the leadership positions in the environmental organizations studied,” the study added.

“It does have a race issue,” art student and Extinction Rebellion protester Annabelle van Dort told CNN. But Van Dort argues that Extinction Rebellion has at least brought the climate crisis onto the political agenda.

Interestingly, on its website, Extinction Rebellion proclaims that it uses its “White Privilege.”

Yes, we are aware of the structural racism in our policing and legal system. We give people information about arrest and those of us who are white have acknowledged our privilege, in the likelihood that we will be treated differently / better than our colleagues of colour. People can take a variety of roles. We think it’s important for white people to use their privilege. People of colour (PoC) have been more at risk for generations in defence of the environment and their lands, both here in the UK and around the world.

It is time to for white people to take this risk too so that PoCs, who are threatened by structural racism, don’t have to. The ecological crisis affects PoC more than it does white people currently. Environmental activists of colour in other countries have been killed for defending their land. We also try to acknowledge the police as human beings and to be respectful during our protests, but this does not make us naive about what the police have done to activists and communities in the UK. Activists have been subjected to lies, assault, the spy cop trauma and worse.

It turns out many of the protesters won’t have to worry about arrest records..yet. More than 100 Extinction Rebellion arrestees have had charges against them dropped after the ban forbidding protest in London last month was ruled unlawful.

The Crown Prosecution Service decision will affect about 105 cases immediately, mostly those involving defendants facing trial for allegedly breaching section 14 of the 1986 Public Order Act.

Others formally accused of obstructing the highway will also have the cases against them discontinued, the CPS confirmed. Many cases will still go ahead.

The announcement may encourage large numbers of the estimated 1,800 protesters who were held between 14 October and 19 October to sue for wrongful arrest and detention.

Maybe if the handmaids didn’t paint their faces all white, it would be a start?


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