The activist group has called the idea ‘ridiculous’ as it faces criticism about a protest against press coverage of the climate crisis
Amid an ongoing two weeks of disruption to raise awareness about the climate crisis and call for environmental action, Extinction Rebellion has responded to claims that it could be rebranded an “organised crime group” by the UK government.
In a statement, the climate activist group has called the move “ridiculous” and pointed out that, according to the government’s own strategy, organised crime is “characterised by violence or the threat of violence and by the use of bribery and corruption”.
“That is hardly an accurate description of the thousands of ordinary people – the nurses, the doctors, the grandparents, and others – who take part in Extinction Rebellion’s non-violent protests,” the group added.
The potential reclassification of the group – which has previously faced claims of extremism in (now recalled) police documents – comes alongside the possibility of new powers to make it easier for police to stop activists entering certain areas, according to The Telegraph. Changes could also explicitly outlaw disruption to what The Telegraph calls “tenets of democracy”, which may include parliamentary voting, judges attending court, and press distribution.
The Telegraph was among a handful of newspapers – including the The Sun, The Times, and the Daily Mail – affected by an Extinction Rebellion protest this weekend, which saw activists blockade newspaper printing sites belonging to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, in an attempt to highlight the papers’ failure to accurately report on the climate crisis.
Using vehicles and activists locked onto bamboo structures to block roads to the sites, the protest ran through the night from Friday (September 4) to Saturday (September 5), with a reported 72 activists arrested.
Discussing the proposed reclassification, however, Extinction Rebellion suggests that the government definition of an organised crime group could just as easily “cover the criminal activities of News Corp”. Defending this weekend’s demonstration, XR criticised the news corporation’s “consistent manipulation of the truth to suit their own personal and political agendas”.
“Extinction Rebellion decided to stop the distribution of the print version of several newspapers for one day and suddenly our politicians are up in arms,” the group adds. “Where were they when our ‘free press’ was being bought up by billionaires?”