Opinion

Protesters’ tactics draw negative reaction

By James Bennett

Greta Thunberg and the Extinction Rebellion have caught global attention.

They're shouting louder than ever about climate change and have millions across the world supporting them.

Climate change is happening and it's a serious problem that scientists have said can be slowed, prevented and even reversed.

We must act on it for the sake of our future.

The climate change movement has also drawn more attention to waste.

More money is being allocated to cleaning up oceans and reducing our plastic impact.

It feels like in the past three years we've woken up from an extended coma and said, ``wow, what the hell have we done to our beautiful planet?''.

However what has left people with a sour note about Greta and the Extinction Rebellion is the way they've protested, not what they're protesting about.

Two weeks ago Greta led a global movement of young members of the community skipping school to protest against climate change. It's safe to say it divided the world.

People who were against the teenagers stuck with the same lines: "They're too young to protest", "They shouldn't be skipping school", "They don't understand the science and what they're protesting against", "They're being brainwashed by their parents and the media".

Although some of the criticism might have been warranted, there were many who defended the protesters' actions, and I was one of those. I stand by the fact that these children and teenagers are exercising their right to freedom of speech, protest and becoming involved with politics.

They're not just protesting for the sake of skipping school but raising awareness among their peers to act on having a cleaner and greener environment.

Fast forward, and the Extinction Rebellion arrives (again) but this time it's not well received by the public.

Protesters hanging from the top of buildings and bridges, defacing statues with fake blood, wearing over-the-top costumes and laying in the middle of the busiest road in the city seems a little over the top.

People don't like having their daily routine disrupted, and they don't like their taxpayer dollar being spent on the measures needed to bring the protests to an end.

It seems puzzling that the members of the Extinction Rebellion think they will receive a positive reaction for their civil disobedience when so many of us are at our jobs trying to earn a decent wage.

And if they're not looking for a positive reaction but for attention, and our taxpayer dollars are spent bringing down a protester who's dangling from a bridge, what's the point in protesting?

A protest isn't about drawing attention to the way you go about it. People might think it is, but in reality the point of a protest is to get people supporting you.

How is the Extinction Rebellion going to get the support of the average person when the debate centres on their tactics instead of what they're protesting about?

Previously, much of the debate around young climate change protesters was around if they should be in school rather than rallying, however there was still talk about the impact climate change is having and will have on these young people's future.

But civil disobedience to the level Extinction Rebellion participants are displaying now, is not the answer.

The answer lays in putting like-minded people forward to confront those in power with their concerns and what they believe must be done to prevent further damage to the environment.

I will always compare current protests to how Martin Luther King Jnr's civil rights movement protested.

Few other forms of protests or civil rights movement were more effective.

The movement's protests were successful because Dr King preached peace — but he gained even more from politicians when he spoke directly with them in private meetings.

The same must happen if we're to start seeing proper action directed towards stopping climate change.

Keep the protests up, but instead of petulant disobedience let's ensure they're peaceful — for this is the way to more support and greater persuasive power.