The rise of smiley-face environmental terrorism

There’s no telling what these extremists will do. We need to crack down on this danger now

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Jack BuckbyThere’s no doubt summer 2021 was a scorcher around the world.

The United Kingdom’s Met Office revealed that temperatures exceeded 30C in September for only the seventh time in history.

In Vancouver, 2021 was the second hottest summer ever recorded, with daily average temperatures at Vancouver International Airport reaching 18.9C in June, July and August. It was only 0.2C under the 63-year-old record. Elsewhere in Western Canada, June and July saw several days where temperatures exceeded 30C.

The United States saw similar scorching days. Almost every week, news outlets described how temperatures hit the highest levels for 100 years or more, prompting many to warn of the impending threat of global warming – while seemingly failing to consider the question: What happened 100 years ago?

And if the high temperatures weren’t inconvenient enough, particularly for those living in the cities, Extinction Rebellion (XR) was ready and willing to make life even more miserable for commuters, who were once again hit by riots, protests, unrest and disruption.

Click here to downloadIn Vancouver, five climate protesters, including a 15-year-old boy, were arrested after a five-hour occupation of a major intersection in the downtown region. XR Vancouver was behind the “peaceful” march, which caused major disruption to the city on Aug. 21. Holding their colourful signs and dancing in the street, the activists proclaimed that the summer weather was an indication of immediate doom and engaged in what I’ve described as “smiley-face terrorism.”

The United Kingdom suffered the worst of Extinction Rebellion’s smiley-face terrorism this year, however, with more than 500 activists arrested since Aug. 23, according to the Metropolitan Police. On the first day of the protests, the group shut down Trafalgar Square in a protest made in conjunction with a group called Nature Rebellion.

Wearing bizarre costumes, protesters shut down huge sections of the city, forced out almost 2,000 police officers whose time would be better spent fighting common crimes in the city, and blocked traffic for hours. However, quick and decisive action from those police officers appears to be forcing the extremist group to rethink its tactics.

Video footage showed how police officers quickly tackled XR protesters to the ground before setting up huge wooden roadblocks, and how they smashed windows on buses containing activists to drag them out and arrest them.

The Guardian reported XR activists specifically organized their protests this year to cause maximum damage, executing their protests in two phases. According to the newspaper, the first was to engage in “crisis talks” in which protestors occupied the busiest areas of the city to harass passersby about the climate crisis – another firm indication of the cult-like nature of this group.

The second phase involved moving those protests to the City of London, where activists would purposely attempt to disrupt financial institutions, which they say are the main instigators of global fossil fuel projects.

Because of the crackdown, XR’s activists are aware that change is needed. Gail Bradbrook, a co-founder of XR, told the Guardian that there has been a “contraction” in the movement but that she sees it “stabilizing and getting stronger.”

Crossing the line from eco-activism to emotional eco-terrorism by Gwyn Morgan

Bradbrook added that XR will now “pivot” from this year’s talk about an “emergency” to focusing on the “political economy” next year and beyond, adding that activists will “get out into the communities.” What that will entail, however, is anybody’s guess.

XR’s tactics have been both expected and predictable. British police have proven that stricter enforcement of the law can prevent the same numbers coming out every year – this year saw a notable decline in attendees compared to recent years – but the suggestion that XR tactics will change should scare all Western leaders.

When motivated by what one considers to be a legitimate grievance – in this instance the belief that the world is literally about to end – there’s no telling what extremist activists will do next.

Now is the time for true leadership – in the style of the Metropolitan Police – from American and Canadian political leaders. Fail to take action on these extremists now and next year they may go beyond their usual smiley-face terrorism into just plain terrorism.

Jack Buckby is a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Jack is a Troy Media Thought Leader. For interview requests, click here.


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Jack Buckby

Jack Buckby is a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and a British author and researcher, with experience working in English, American, Canadian and Polish media.

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