We have serious concerns about the safety of both legal observers and of those taking part in actions associated with Extinction Rebellion, based on how its core working groups have been dealing with legal and security aspects of their activity.
The Green and Black Cross has announced that it will no longer work with climate change activists Extinction Rebellion (XR) - saying that its core group had frequently ignored advice on legal issues.
Green and Black Cross (GBC) provides training about the law governing protests to those taking part, and coordinates legal observers who collect an independent set of evidence to be used by those arrested during direct action.
However, it is no longer willing to carry out such work with XR, according to a statement on the organisation’s website.
This states: “We do not usually make public statements because of the sensitive nature of our work, and because our role is to support people at risk of police and state violence, not to be involved in discussions around how people are engaging in activism.
“In this instance however, we have serious concerns about the safety of both legal observers and of those taking part in actions associated with Extinction Rebellion (XR), based on how XR’s core working groups have been dealing with legal and security aspects of their activity.”
It claims XR has provided inadequate and inconsistent training to legal observers; that these legal observers are not independent.
Further, it warned that the way XR stores personal data is inadequately secure - for example, in Google documents - so that it can be accessed by police and that the communication channels it uses - such as Whatsapp and Facebook messenger groups - are also not secure.
The organisation also says that information published by XR for activists who have been arrested is misleading and inaccurate, meaning that people do not fully understand the risks that they are being asked to take.
The GBC says that it has raised its concerns with XR. Although XR acted on the advice in some cases, the organisation added that the boundaries it set were often pushed back, and “many times our advice was simply ignored if it did not align with XR’s aims and values".
The organisation will not support XR “until a culture of solidarity, democratic accountability and security develops within the organisation", it said. It will continue to support those arrested in XR action to date, it added.
XR did not respond to a request for comment on the allegations.
Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.