XR Guildford On The Thoughts of Surrey's Police Commissioner

Surrey's police commissioner (centre) shows his support for Extinction Rebellion Guildford 

While gathering in Guildford High Street to restate the Declaration of Rebellion last Saturday, local Extinction Rebellion members were pleased to bump into David Munro, Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner. Mr Munro had been attending a community safety event in Holy Trinity Church when he met with XR supporters, who had just pinned their declaration to the Guildhall doors in a symbolic gesture of rebellion against government inaction on climate breakdown. 

 

XR campaigners were very pleased to hear that the Commissioner not only agreed with their climate aims, but also suggested that Surrey Police should follow the County Council in declaring a climate emergency. Speaking to The Guildford Dragon News, Mr Munro said, “Extinction Rebellion’s aims are right. We are living in a crisis and we have to get it right”.

 

However, when pressed on whether he supported Extinction Rebellion’s tactics of non-violent direct action and disruption to force climate change up the political agenda Mr Munro was less enthusiastic, saying “Getting arrested is not good as it takes up police time…It has to be within the law, so my message is – don’t get arrested”.

 

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Of course, as Police and Crime Commissioner, it is unlikely that Mr Munro would be free to say otherwise – but this response to the XR movement specifically, and activism in general, ignores a very important piece of the puzzle that led us to this point in history. Climate activists have been writing letters, petitioning their representatives and spreading awareness for decades, yet since scientists started warning earnestly about climate change circa 1988, humans have put more carbon into the atmosphere as a species than we had since the Industrial Revolution began.

History has shown us time and time again that rights and power are ‘taken, never given’. Women in the UK did not achieve universal suffrage by letter-writing; unions did not win parental leave or paid holidays through continuing to work in unfair conditions. Despite the fact that the climate crisis will affect us all (although it will hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest), it seems those with the responsibility to represent the people are still not listening.

Mr Munro's backing of XR’s aims is welcome – but those who truly understand the imminent threat we face must similarly agree that the time to constrain ourselves to hand-wringing and letters to the editor is long past. After 30 years of ignoring scientists and campaigners, governments and businesses must now take rapid, comprehensive action to avoid the worst impacts of catastrophic climate change.

 

Waiting for politicians and CEOs to do so is no longer an option – proven again just yesterday [11.09.2019] in Surrey, as the County Council planning committee waved through a massive expansion of oil extraction at Horse Hill and paved the way for future drilling right across the South East. Local residents and campaigners have all but exhausted legal avenues to oppose drilling, but the council seem to have no problem ignoring their own legislation binding them to carbon neutrality by 2050.

 

In the face of such blatant hypocrisy and the uselessness of indirect action, those who are following both the science and the law in attempting to maintain a liveable future for their children have no other choice but to risk arrest through non-violent direct action. Nobody wants to be arrested, and nobody wants to disrupt fellow citizens going about their lives, but if this is the only way change is achievable then increasing numbers of people will risk their freedom to do what’s right. Campaigners will not take climate destruction lying down, unless it happens to be in front of a digger.

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