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Marvin Rees blasts 'privileged' Extinction Rebellion protesters

Credit: Simon Holliday

Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees has broken his silence over an Extinction Rebellion (XR) protest at City Hall, calling it a “stunt” by “juvenile” protesters engaging in “privilege activism”.

Protestors from the climate activism group XR have been camped out on the roof of City Hall since Thursday (June 25).

During a Facebook Live yesterday (June 1), Mr Rees said the protesters could have emailed him or called him if they had wanted a conversation instead of pulling a “stunt” to get his attention.

The council has previously held at least eight formal meetings with XR, he said.

“It’s privilege activism just to do something, click your fingers and then expect me to turn up,” he said.

He said the council was doing a lot of things to address air quality and climate change and that an argument it was “doing nothing” was a “juvenile conversation”.

Mr Rees said: “I may as well [comment] on the stunt at City Hall at the moment.

“The demands have been trying to catch up with the stunt, to justify the stunt.

“It boils to down for me to question [their] accusations.

“The first is ‘we want to meet you’. 

“If you want to meet me, send an email, phone me up or send a paper letter. You don’t need to climb on a roof and then shout down demanding I come out.

“That kind of ‘we’re going to do something extreme, snap our fingers and expect you to come running’, hopefully we got over that culture with tearing down the Colston statue.

“I wouldn’t work like that with my children, if they were to engage in some extreme activity to try and get my attention.

“If you want to talk, just come and talk to me.”

“You don’t have to do something so dramatic. We’re all grown up human beings.

“It’s privilege activism just to do something, click your fingers and then expect me to turn up.

“To me that is the very same politics that’s led us to Brexit and Trump, this simplification of politics…’you don’t agree with everything I say…therefore I’m going to portray you as an enemy, not just of me, of everything that I claim to embody’, and they claim to embody the environmental movement and the planet.

“It’s really poor and it under-serves us.

“The truth is there’s lots going on in the city around air quality and climate change.

“Now if you want to say ‘not enough is happening and you’re not doing it fast enough’, that’s an adult conversation we can have. 

“But if your argument is ‘you’re doing nothing’ then that’s a juvenile conversation.

“That’s tantamount to the teenager telling their parents they never do anything for them and you can’t have a reasonable conversation like that. 

“So let’s get beyond the simplistic and the binary.

“Let’s have an adult conversation and tell the truth.

“And before you start making accusations, do the research.

“It doesn’t take much to click on all the news items about our pedestrianisation of the Old City, the biogas buses, the City Leap programmes, the driving of the SDGs [sustainable development goals] into our spatial planning, the fact that we took the SDGs up to the Local Government Association and had it shared out with all the local authorities across the country, the fact that we sit on the Mayors Migration Council and through we’re also actually advocating for the C40, the global network of cities on climate change to be part of the Mayors Migration Council.”

By Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporting Service

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