There are vast differences in understanding of the essential role and nature of legal observing, rights to protest, or the issue with passing on information from the police to other rebels.
Extinction Rebellion (XR) has admitted that it made mistakes in its legal observation processes during its protests. The clarification follows an announcement by the Green and Black Cross (GBC) that it would no longer work with XR.
GBC accused XR of providing inadequate and inconsistent training to legal observers, whose role includes collecting an independent set of evidence to be used by those arrested during direct action.
GBC claimed that XR’s legal observers were not independent, and that the way XR stored personal data using Google Docs and WhatsApp was inadequately secure, and could be accessed by police.
According to XR, GBC actually withdrew support two weeks before its protests in April, which saw ten days of marches, arrests and widespread disruption in London and other parts of the country.
XR carried out training itself, knowing that thousands of people were about to engage in civil disobedience, the group has now said in a statement. Their training was based on materials provided by GBC and delivered by trainers who had previously worked with the GBC.
XR has said that it used Google forms and WhatsApp because it was the best way of quickly organising hundreds of legal observers to stay in touch with them, and no contact details were shared outside XR’s legal support group.
The XR statement said: “As a young movement made up of many individuals who have worked with and respect the work of GBC, as well as a range of people who are completely new to protest.
"There are vast differences in understanding of the essential role and nature of legal observing, rights to protest, or the issue with passing on information from the police to other rebels.”
It stressed that it was “immensely grateful” for all the help and support provided by the GBC, and added its finance team was looking into ways it could help obtain funding for frontline environmental and social justice support organisations. The statement from XR can be read in full here.
Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.
Image: STML, Flickr.