The Washington, D.C., chapter of a climate activism group issued an apology to Black Lives Matter for “eroding trust with our black and brown allies” at a September protest.
Extinction Rebellion’s D.C. chapter wrote in an open letter that it “did not respect, and instead dismissed, Black Lives Matter DC’s hard block regarding fliers that apologized to the public for our disruptive actions.” This decision marginalized the voices of black activists involved in the protest, the group added.
Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter were among a number of activist groups that staged mass protests in Washington on September 23. Extinction Rebellion stated in an email to supporters beforehand that it intended to “fundamentally change the way the climate crisis is talked about and dealt with in this country.” Although protesters shouted, stood on ladders, and chained themselves to a sailboat, most news outlets largely ignored the demonstration.
The protest did affect the commutes of many D.C. residents. Members of Extinction Rebellion handed out fliers apologizing for the inconvenience, contrary to the wishes of the local Black Lives Matter chapter. The latter group feared that apologizing for inconveniencing the public could set a precedent for future disruptive activities.
“Many, if not most, of us did not understand the implications of apologizing for our acts of disruption within the context of broader legacies of cultural violence,” Extinction Rebellion wrote. “We did not recognize how our apologies for the space we occupied reflected the regular and habitual marginalization of black and brown people at large; apologies for acts of civil disobedience, within that context, can only undermine the justified claims that people of color have to such spaces, and are themselves an act of harm reflective of those broader legacies of cultural violence and marginalization.”
Extinction Rebellion added that its racial insensitivity during the event is “indicative of a deeper problem” within the organization.
“We have failed to adequately educate our members on the complex issues of police brutality, racial justice, and nonviolent communication,” the group wrote. “We deeply regret that this problem manifested in such a harmful and thoughtless way during the Shutdown DC action.”
Extinction Rebellion has faced worldwide scrutiny for its interactions with minority groups. A recent profile in the Guardian characterized the group as operating within the “white middle-class ghetto” of climate activism.
Nic Rowan is media analyst at the Washington Free Beacon. His work has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, First Things, and The New Criterion. Follow him on Twitter @NicXTempore.