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Extinction Rebellion protest, Barclays, Canary Wharf
via Instagram/@xrebellionuk

Extinction Rebellion protesters arrested for breaking glass in bank protest

The non-violent direct action targeted the headquarters of Barclays, the largest funder of fossil fuels in Europe

Seven women, associated with the climate activist group Extinction Rebellion, have been arrested following an action at the headquarters of Barclays in Canary Wharf, London. 

On April 7 at 7am, the women placed stickers reading “in case of climate emergency break glass” on the windows of the bank, and proceeded to break the glass with hammers and chisels. Care was taken to avoid danger to Barclays staff and passersby, says a press release, and after the glass was broken the activists sat down to peacefully await arrest.

“This is about doing what is necessary, not what is easy,” says one of the activists, in a statement posted to Instagram. “I act for every man, woman and child whose security Barclays has sacrificed for their own short term gain.”

The action is part of Extinction Rebellion’s ongoing “Money Rebellion”, which targets financial institutions and the broader economic system that places individual fortunes before “our health, climate, and natural world”. As the group points out, it also follows in the footsteps of the suffragettes, who similarly used nonviolent direct action and minor property damage to draw attention to larger social and political issues.

Demonstrators wore the colours of the suffrage movement to highlight the disproportionate impact that the climate crisis is likely to have on women — particularly women of colour, women in the global south, and those in economic precarity.

The protest targeted Barclays in particular, meanwhile, due to the bank’s “continued investments in activities that are directly contributing to the climate and ecological emergency”. According to a recent financial report, Barclays is the largest funder of fossil fuels in Europe (ranking seventh globally) and isn’t currently on track to meet Paris Climate Agreement targets.

Earlier this month, one of the founders of Extinction Rebellion, Dr Gail Bradbrook, also broke the window of a Barclays bank in her hometown of Stroud, kickstarting the campaign.

Following the action, a spokesperson for Barclays has reiterated the bank’s ambition to be net zero by 2050.  “Extinction Rebellion are entitled to their view on capitalism and climate change,” they add, “but we would ask that in expressing that view they stop short of behaviour which involves criminal damage to our facilities and puts people’s safety at risk.”

“Better broken windows than broken promises,” Extinction Rebellion says.

The seven women involved in the protest were taken into custody, and enquiries are ongoing, according to Metropolitan police.

Earlier this year, it was announced that the UK government will be given increased powers to crack down on demonstrations, via changes to the Police, Crimes, Sentencing and Courts Bill. The amendments — which have sparked “Kill the Bill” protests across the country — could allow the imposition of start and finish times and noise limits, as well as severe consequences for protesters who cause “serious annoyance”.

Authorities have also responded to XR’s campaigning directly, with claims of extremism and threats of tighter protest restrictions. Huge numbers of climate activists have already been forced to attend court dates amid the coronavirus pandemic, in what’s said to be the biggest protest crackdown in recent legal history.