SHUT IT DOWN: THE XR AMERICA PLAN OF ACTION
MASS CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE
We’re in a fight for our life! A large part of our population is just waiting for something they can do to rebel against extinction – that is, to rebel for life.
That’s why we want as many people as possible to know about Extinction Rebellion, because it offers an amazing opportunity. By organizing mass civil disobedience, we offer ordinary people an effective way to bring about change.
What do we mean by “civil disobedience?” Our form of civil disobedience usually involves sitting down in city streets to block traffic, with at least some people staying there long enough to get arrested. This is a simple, peaceful, relatively low-risk activity, but if a critical mass of people come together to do it for long enough, it’s very disruptive and makes a strong impact. (Think of thousands of people blocking a main road over a period of days or weeks! Check out this video of the Waterloo Uprising in April 2019 as an example.)
Big, visible, nonviolent-but-disruptive actions create public debate and attitude change. Economic and political costs make negotiation seem like a better option, and governments are pressured to come to the bargaining table and finally consider changes in policy.
In order to gather enough people to make an impact, we depend on new rebels to create local chapters. Click here to join or start a chapter. These chapters then engage in mobilization – getting even more people involved, signing up even more rebels – until we have enough people to stage “Shut It Down” actions which last days or weeks at state capitals and then in the US capital, Washington DC.
Our slogan is “Maximum Disruption, Maximum Love.”
BUILDING REBEL NUMBERS FOR LARGER, COORDINATED ACTIONS
Chapters keep XRA informed about how many people they have involved, and particularly how many potentially arrestable people they have identified. Based on total numbers from chapters across your state, coordinating circles at the state, regional, or national levels will organize larger actions for you to participate in.
Participation in state and national civil disobedience actions should be prioritized, because this is XRA’s main way to put pressure on our governments. These larger actions are the whole reason chapters exist!
If anyone at the chapter level wants to help plan larger actions, you will have an opportunity to do so. Coordinating circles (state, regional, national) are composed of representatives from chapters. Click here to join or start a chapter.
DISRUPTION AT STATE CAPITALS
Once chapters in a state have a total of 1,000 members, they organize a mass civil disobedience action at their state capital, and call for their state government to meet XRA’s Four Demands.
Police are told ahead of time. People sit in the road until “arrestable” people are arrested. Arrestable people are those willing and able to be arrested, after careful consideration. Even if you can’t risk arrest, though, you are needed and welcome: Many support people are needed for each arrestable person. Media attention should be maximized. XRA national, regional, and state coordinating circles will assist in the coordination of these larger actions.
Within two months, chapters return to the state capital with the Four Demands, but also with a specific “dilemma action” demand of the state government – something specific the state government could do to address the climate crisis, such as ending all fossil fuel subsidies (full divestment), or legislation against any new fossil fuel infrastructure in the state.
State chapters plan and publicize action dates, to bring increasing numbers of people to the capital, aiming for a large occupation that lasts at least 2-3 days (once one batch of people get arrested, more people show up to replace them). In addition to the mass actions, individuals may choose to:
- Engage in a sacrificial action like a hunger strike
- Engage in other symbolic civil disobedience actions that might involve days or weeks in jail, thus pursuing the tactic of “fill the prisons” of Martin Luther King, Jr.
MASS DISRUPTION IN WASHINGTON, DC
Once we have the people and resources to bring 50,000 arrestable people to Washington DC, we organize a mass civil disobedience action there. (We aim to achieve this by spring 2021.) We focus on our Four Demands plus a dilemma action (see above) aimed at the federal government.
At least ten arrestable people go to Washington from each XRA chapter in the U.S. over the course of five weeks to sit in roads in the center of the city, leading to 10,000 possible arrests a week for 5 weeks. We estimate a million people will be involved overall, including those offering practical and moral support to arrestables. The publicity leads to massive recruitment of others, so the mass civil disobedience can potentially continue indefinitely until the government is forced to negotiate. Click here to join or start a chapter.
STAYING FOCUSED ON OUR TWIN TASKS: MOBILIZATION AND ACTION
When people get involved in XRA it should be clear from the beginning what they’re getting involved in. We have twin tasks:
- To mobilize people to set up and join chapters.
- To engage in civil disobedience actions – either as arrestable people or as support (many support people are needed for every arrestable person).
This is an emergency. We need to devote all of our time and resources to the twin tasks of mobilization and action. This keeps things simple, preventing the over-complexity which leads to confusion, conflict, and a lack of action.
BEING ONE PART OF A “MOVEMENT OF MOVEMENTS”
XR America is one part of what we call a “Movement of Movements,” which is made up of many different groups, campaigns, and organizations, each doing their part to bring about the change we need.
XRA can’t possibly bring about the changes we need all by ourselves. We count on other groups and campaigns to develop and lobby for positive legislation, encourage people to make lifestyle changes, strengthen our democracies, work for racial, social, economic, class, and indigenous justice, plant trees and create gardens, or to develop alternative ways for everyone to live on this planet and thrive.
XRA’s strategy is to specialize, like a fire department is a specialized team for putting out fires. The building permit department tries to make sure your home is safe ahead of time, and a construction company can help you rebuild after a fire. The fire department isn’t neglectful because it doesn’t inspect homes or rebuild. Similarly, XR America exists to force our governments to the bargaining table as soon as possible. That’s it.
NOT PRIORITIZING COLLABORATION
When trying to bring about positive change, it’s common for groups to collaborate on things like events, rallies, or campaigns. This is a great, community-building way of operating, yet in order to stay focused on our twin tasks, it is not a priority of XRA to collaborate with other campaigns or groups.
This is not meant to be unfriendly or unsupportive in any way. This part of our strategy is due to following reasons:
1) Working and negotiating with other groups takes up time and resources which we instead choose to focus on our twin tasks of mobilization and action. This is an emergency, and we’re dedicated to our particular approach to bringing about change.
2) Other groups often have a particular ideology, political agenda, different priorities, or incompatible strategies. Collaboration often creates confusion about our mission, causes debates about which groups to endorse, and threatens our goal of being a “big tent.”
3) Working with other groups is likely to lead to a compromise of our dedication to mass civil disobedience, because most other groups will want collaborative campaigns or actions that avoid disruption or the risk of arrest.
We want to be clear this position is a strategic choice and isn’t in any way meant to be critical of other groups and campaigns. It’s like we’re the fire department on our way to a fire, and we mean no offense when we don’t stop to join some other worthwhile – or even critical – cause along the way. XR America members do, of course, participate in and support other groups, campaigns, or causes on our own.
Members of other groups are more than welcome to join us in the streets! We may differ on strategy for how to get there but our end goal can be the same: Forcing governments to change through civil disobedience!
We’re also enthusiastic fans of other XR groups who are mobilizing and taking action, often in countries where it is much more difficult or dangerous to do so than in the US. In a practical sense we’re focused on our own mobilization plan, but we’re proud to be part of an international Extinction Rebellion and happy to support other mobilizations through things like publicity, and sharing resources like trainings.
MOBILIZATION - GETTING AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE IN THE STREETS
The idea is to keep things simple, and recruit as many ordinary folks as possible to get in the streets! With the help of the XR America National Mobilizers, chapters should focus on growing their network of people who have taken the following six steps:
1) Have seen the Heading for Extinction and What to Do About It talk, in person or online.
2) Have formally joined a chapter by starting a regular financial pledge.
3) Have participated in the 4-hour Welcome to the Rebellion Training, which helps people understand Extinction Rebellion America and how we operate.
4) Have participated in at least one 3-Minute Roadblock as a real-life introduction to civil disobedience.
5) Have pledged to participate in mass civil disobedience actions organized by XR America at the state or federal level when called upon, whether as an arrestable person, or as support. Click here for the XRA Rebel Pledge Form.
6) Have participated in the 3-hour Civil Disobedience Training.
See the XRA Rebel Handbook for more information on each of these steps.
To increase rebel numbers, chapters engage actively in Eight Methods of Mobilization. When there are enough rebels ready to pull off a mass civil disobedience action, state or national coordinators plan one and everyone shows up! Ideally, some rebels also get trained to give the two Basic Trainings, so they can help with the process of getting everyone ready.
WE WELCOME EVERYONE: XRA AS A BIG TENT
When growing your chapter, it’s essential that you make sure to welcome everyone and make XRA a “big tent.” Our governments will never be forced to address the climate emergency unless we show up in huge numbers.
Ordinary working people must unite to demand an end to policies that are trading our future for short-term corporate profit. But that won’t happen for as long as we allow politicians and their corporate sponsors to divide and distract us by deliberately stirring up racial and other resentments and inciting violence. Coming together across race, class and gender divides is not just the moral thing to do – it’s the only way we can make our communities strong, resilient and ready to meet the crises to come.
It’s also important to make room for everyone who wants to participate, without demanding that they do so only on our terms. Everyone has the right to fight for their life. Some of us feel the need to do something about the climate crisis because we’re worried about the stability of the economy. We may fear for our livelihoods, our ways of life, and the future of our children. Some of us want to conserve nature and non-human species. Some of us may be passionate about remaking our whole society.
As long as people abide by the Principles and Values when in XRA spaces, and while publicly associating themselves with XRA, everyone is welcome.* In order to maintain a “big tent,” XRA commits to maintaining simplicity in its mission: mass mobilization and civil disobedience. We seek to create space for government by the people, for the people, in the form of Citizen’s Assemblies.
* Our Principles and Values (P&V’s) say “we welcome everyone, and every part of everyone.” No racism, sexism, homophobia, or any other kind oppression will be tolerated within XRA, because that would violate our P&V’s by excluding other Rebels. Our P&V’s also state that “we challenge ourselves and this toxic system,” so we acknowledge we will need to work at making XR spaces truly welcoming and accessible. At the same time, we seek to learn from – and be patient with – one another, rather than shut people down and reject them through shaming and blaming – whatever our political or ideological differences.