The environmentalist activist group Extinction Rebellion (XR) will hold various "Rebellions" this month in Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom. As part of the August campaign, the group has planned significant action in Oslo (Norway) and Berlin (Germany) to last several days, known as the "Nordic" and "Central" Rebellions.
Financial and oil sectors likely to be prominent targets
- In the Netherlands, XR will host a "Climate Camp" ("Klimaatkamp") event from 11-15 August in Lutkemeer, Amsterdam. The organisers aim to revive attendance after a year of Covid restrictions, whilst conforming to local rules on mass gatherings. The Climate Camp will be less formal than a traditional "Rebellion" event, though spontaneous protests are likely to accompany planned training workshops and live music events. The group opposes the construction of a new distribution centre in Amsterdam, which may become a target of "die-ins" and other stunts. Direct action at Schiphol Airport (AMS) is also possible, given the group's propensity to target the airport in the past, which would increase the risk of travel disruption.
- In the United Kingdom, XR plans to launch the "Impossible Rebellion" on 23 August. The central action will begin at 1000 hours in Trafalgar Square, London, with other unspecified events scheduled to take place in the following two weeks. XR singled out the "city of London" as the target of the action, raising the prospect of demonstrations near the central London offices of financial sector firms with perceived links to the fossil fuel industry. XR's Money Rebellion has been particularly active in the UK over the last six months, progressing to acts of vandalism when activists smashed windows at the London head offices of HSBC and Barclays in March. At present, over 350 people have stated they will attend the "Impossible Rebellion" on 23 August, with 400 more expressing interest. These numbers are likely to grow as the event approaches.
- In Oslo, Norway, XR will hold a "Nordic Rebellion" from 22-29 August in an effort to hold the largest mass action week in Scandinavia to date. The campaign will explicitly target the oil and gas sector, both state and privately owned. During the week, the protest campaign will focus on several "blockades" of key sites across the city, likely resulting is significant disruption. The campaign will open with an XR Youth parade in Monolitten, Vigelandsanlegget, from 1000 hours on 23 August.
- Planned locations for blockades in Oslo include: the Ankerbrua bridge (1600 hours, 23 August); Frederiks Gate/Karl Johans Gate (1100 hours, 24 August); the Natural History Museum (1000 hours, 25 August); Klimabrøle (1500 hours, 27 August); and Eidsvolls plass, Stortinget (1615 hours, 27 August), among other sites. A "surprise" targeted action is planned on 26 August, followed by a concluding "Grand Party Blockade" in the city centre from 1730 hours on 27 August. Other blockades are likely to continue until the campaign's "debriefing" on 29 August.
“Central Rebellion” threatens significant disruption in Berlin
On 14 August, XR will launch the "Central Rebellion" in Berlin, Germany as the centrepiece of the #AugustRiseUp campaign, running until at least 21 August. The group has published a full programme of actions, which may be subject to last minute changes as frequently happens in the run-up to major events (for a detailed interactive map of the locations most likely to be impacted by the protests, see the last page of this report).
- In anticipation of the rallies beginning on 16 August, XR has organised a music festival on 14-15 August at Marx Engels Forum in Mitte District. The area is likely to be a focal point for demonstrations throughout the campaign.
- Civil disobedience and disruptive activities will formally begin on 16 August, with a mass climate demonstration scheduled for 17 August. Protesters will meet from 1500 hours outside the party headquarters of Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Social Democratic Party (SPD) on Klingelhöferstrasse and Wilhelmstrasse respectively, before marching on an as yet unspecified route.
- XR activists will stage more focused actions between 18-19 August, though specific targets have not been announced beyond "the blockers of effective climate policy". However, the protests on 19 August will focus on the health of the oceans, suggesting that firms with links to the maritime sector would be targeted for demonstrations.
- On 20 August, animal rights XR activists will hold a "vigil" outside the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture on Wilhelmstrasse between 1500-1700 hours, followed by a demonstration against slaughterhouses. Participants will meet at Wilmersdorfer Strasse 46 at 1200 hours before heading towards Breitscheidplatz a few hours later. Slaughterhouses, butchers and other businesses involved in the meat industry are all potential targets of the march.
- In addition, Central Rebellion organisers have announced a "surprise" event for 20 August, though no details are forthcoming at the time of writing. The campaign will round off with the next iteration of XR's "Rebellion of One" campaign on 21 August, which will likely see more blockades on roads. Although the focus will remain on Berlin, other “Rebellion of One” events in recent months have shown that regional chapters of XR will typically organise their own smaller events.
Forecast and implcations
With COVID-19 restrictions now significantly eased across Europe, XR aims for Central Rebellion and Nordic Rebellion to be the largest environmentalist events in Berlin and Oslo since before the pandemic. The campaigns are likely to cause significant disruption in city centres throughout August, sustaining the risk of direct actions, vandalism, and "die ins" against numerous sectors, including the financial, meat, and fossil fuel industries.
Looking ahead, recent developments in environmental policy and upcoming political milestones are likely to trigger further climate activism across Europe in Q3-4. Activist legal victories that forced some European governments, including Germany, to change their climate policies earlier this year are among the factors continuing to embolden environmentalists (see Sibylline Situation Update 14 May for further analysis). In Germany, activists will seek to capitalise on this momentum ahead of the upcoming federal election this September, compounding green policy risks (see Sibylline Situation Update 30 April).
More broadly, recent extreme weather events have contributed to growing anguish within the environmentalist community (for coverage of heatwaves in North America, floods in Central Europe, and wildfires in the Eastern Mediterranean, see Sibylline Situation Update Brief 3 August). With the pandemic increasingly being seen as a missed opportunity to tackle climate change, it is possible that further extreme weather events in the run-up to the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow this November will drive increased attendance at protests, as well as more audacious tactics from the fringes of activist networks.