22 protesters were arrested and at least eight detained in London yesterday after an Extinction Rebellion campaign blockade at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Demonstrators affiliated with Christian Climate Action and the Extinction Rebellion campaign, which advocates non-violent direct action, blocked entry to the department’s offices, chaining themselves together and lying down on the pavement in front of the building. Some of the protesters superglued themselves to the building’s windows, doors and card entry locks.
One protester sprayed the slogan “frack off” above the main entrance to the building, while another sprayed windows facing Victoria Street with the Extinction symbol, a stylised hourglass in a circle: the circle represents the planet, while the hourglass symbolises the fact that time is running out for many species. A spokesperson for the group later told reporters that protesters had used spray chalk, which washes off easily, rather than permanent paint.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the controversial process of extracting shale gas and oil from deep underground by using high-pressure liquid pumps to fracture shale rock in order to release the potential gas and oil within. The UK’s only fracking site, overseen by Cuadrilla in Lancashire, resumed operations last month after being out of action since its suspension in 2011, due to the process of fracking causing earth tremors in the area. Tremors began to occur again shortly after the Cuadrilla site restarted its excavations.
The short term goals of the Extinction Rebellion campaign are to induce the cancellation of environmentally damaging projects in the UK, such as fracking and the third runway at Heathrow. Their longer term aims are focused on governmental honesty about the climate crisis, acceleration of the UK’s targets for carbon neutrality; and the establishment of a “People’s Assembly” to promote the protection of the climate.
A statement from the Extinction Rebellion campaign said: “The UK government, specifically BEIS, is promoting fracking – meeting with fracking companies more than 30 times in the last three years, compared to zero times with anti-fracking groups – despite massive local opposition. From Preston New Road (665 days now and counting) in Lancashire, to Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire, to Horse Hill in Surrey, communities are coming together to fight against fracking.”
Extinction Rebellion campaign participants plan to implement further acts of civil disobedience throughout the week and intend to stage a sit-in in Parliament Square on November 17. Campaigners say they are prepared to make personal sacrifices, including risking arrest and imprisonment, to ensure their message is heard.
Correction: this piece has been edited to clarify the meaning of the Extinction symbol.