In previous modules, there has been discussion of research strategies. One of the strategies was immersion and at the time I noted the idea and carried on reading about my research subjects.
That has all changed this week as I started to research Extinction Rebellion from the inside.
Earlier this week, I attended Non Violent Direct Action training. This is experiential training for all people involved in the Extinction Rebellion (XR) actions. First, we were invited to consider the difference between how we perceived our actions and how the public, especially those we were affecting, perceived them. The sort of disruption caused by blocking roads and bridges can make those affected very angry. We were guided through how to deal with these situations, how to stick with XR non-violence principles and how to de-escalate such situations.
XR sees the arrests of rebels as a tool to gain publicity, support and leverage. But being arrested is a process over which the rebels have control. The police do not make arrests randomly. Arrests will occur when rebels persist in obstruction or refuse to leave areas which have been defined under section 14 orders. So those wishing to be arrested will ignore orders from the police and those not wishing to be arrested will comply.
The training also included what would happen during the arrest, the arrest process and the likely legal process.
This event had around 60 attendees and is one of many such sessions I have seen promoted. The movement is obviously very popular and the protests planned next week are likely to be well supported.
A lot of training is available. On Thursday, I attended a session to help deal with vox pop interviews with the media. Tonight, I am attending a meeting of the South East Photographers group. XR is very keen to embrace art as a form of resistance. Photography is highly valued for its media value and I will be contributing images to the media repository. All these images will be available for XR use and also for use by the national and international media.
Whilst I support the aims of XR (https://rebellion.earth/the-truth/demands/) I do not intend for my project to be a hagiography. Criticisms are made of the movement and I will attempt to address some of these criticisms as part of the research.
The following article appeared in The Guardian 4th October 2019 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/04/extinction-rebellion-race-climate-crisis-inequality
The article claims that XR is essentially a white middle-class movement whose priorities reflect that base.
It is true that those meetings I have attended have contained almost all white people. Pictures of the protests also contain predominantly white faces. The founders of XR, people like Roger Hallam and Gail Bradbrook are white. However, I have not seen any seen or experienced any barriers to the involvement of minority groups. I acknowledge that as a white man myself, I am poorly positioned to notice such barriers and I will seek comment from people of different ethnicities on this matter.
I suspect that the criticism made in The Guardian article is based on a very narrow reading of XR activities, but this is a question which remains open.