Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Rebelling in Wellington

Yesterday I went down to Wellington to participate in the Extinction Rebellion protest. Its part of the latest global wave of XR actions, with actions happening all over the world. Some of those protests are massively disruptive: in Canada, XR is blocking major bridges, stopping people from getting to work. In London, they're trying to shut down the centre of government. But New Zealand isn't either of those places, so the protest focused on MBIE, responsible for both energy policy and the promotion of fossil fuel extraction and use. It was a good-natured protest, which blocked off Stout Street (which is mostly empty anyway) and turned it into a street party, while blockading the entrances to MBIE and occasionally going for a little walk elsewhere. When MBIE decided to shut for the day, the protest turned its attention to ANZ - funders of major fossil fuel projects - and oil drilling company OMV, shutting down both. For a finale, they then blocked a major intersection. The only disturbing note was when some angry old white dude stormed into the middle of that, and tried to drag away one of the protesters sitting down in the middle of the road. They were rapidly taken away by police, but it was an unpleasant reminder of the denier demographic that is sadly still around. I had to bail shortly afterwards to catch my train home, so I missed the arrests, but it sounds like they had to work really hard to get the police to arrest them. As for those complaining about the "inconvenience" it all caused, firstly, the fate of the planet is a bit more important than your commute, and secondly, the people it is really inconvenient for are the people who got arrested.

Like the school strike, it was an uplifting experience. But it was definitely more confrontational in tactics. Was it effective? That depends on what you think the goals were. But I think its sent a warning to the government about what to expect if they don't do what is necessary on climate change. And hopefully they will listen and make further rebellion unnecessary.