Extinction Rebellion has been criticised for comparing activists who climbed onto London Tube trains to stop them from running, with civil rights activist Rosa Parks.
In a now-deleted tweet, the official Extinction Rebellion Twitter account wrote: “Rosa Parks refused to move from the white section of the bus and our rebels refused to bequeath a dying planet to future generations by failing to #ActNow.
Campaigners climbed to the top of a tube train at Canning Town station with a ladder before they unfurled a banner reading "Business as usual = death" before furious commuters dragged them to the platform floor.
Meanwhile, another group of activists glued themselves to a DLR train at Shadwell while commuters shouted "We're on an electric train".
Eight people were arrested, British Transport Police said as they urged protesters to not target the London Underground network because it is dangerous “not only for them, but for commuters”.
Rosa Parks was a civil rights activist who was arrested in 1955 for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger after boarding a segregated bus in Montgomery, which led to one of the largest social movements in history.
The movement’s tweet was removed this afternoon after they came under fire for making the connection with Parks, who was dubbed "the first lady of civil rights" by the Supreme Court.
Twitter users condemned XR for making the Rosa Parks comparison during Black History Month and disrupting public transport and thus, alienating “ordinary people” trying to make their way into work .
One person tweeted: “Sorry… are you equating a bunch of middle class white people intentionally disrupting public transport in predominantly poor, working class, ethnic areas to – checks notes – a woman who helped pioneer the civil rights movement so black people could be seen as human beings?”
Another social media user said: “Rosa Parks was part of a sophisticated network of black activists who built inclusive strategies for resistance to build with people, not against them, not speaking over them. Maybe learn from them? Your leaders are open about their choices + they are choices to be ignorant.”
Another tweeted: “Did they just compare themselves to Rosa Parks… Who had PLANNED this action and had a community behind her to support the boycott to limit the damage done to the most affected? Unlike XR? The caucasity.”
“Disruption as a form of protest: good. Targeting working class workers using a green form of transport: bad. Invoking Rosa Parks whilst ignoring critique of your very white and racist tactics and rhetoric: truly awful,” another said.
Extinction Rebellion’s three main demands are that the government declare a climate emergency, that the UK legally commits to reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2025, and that a citizens’ assembly is set up to “oversee the changes”.
But many have accused the group of antagonising the people they are trying to get onside and accusations of hypocrisy, with high-profile supporters of the group criticised for taking first-class flights to join the protests.
On Wednesday, a climate protester dressed as a broccoli floret was interviewed on Good Morning Britain by Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid but was scolded for being evasive in his answers.
The man was part of the Animal Rebellion movement, an offshoot of climate group Extinction Rebellion, and was arrested on Sunday as part of the environmental protests in London.
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As well as taking over areas including Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square, Lambeth Bridge and Victoria Embankment, the group also “peacefully occupied” London City Airport for three days.
On Tuesday, police issued a London-wide ban on the protests but it appears that many are ignoring the order.
The protesters have failed to cut through to the government, with Boris Johnson describing them as “uncooperative crusties” who should stop blocking the streets of London with their “heaving hemp-smelling bivouacs”.
A YouGov poll released this week shows that a majority of Brits oppose the actions of the climate change activists – with 53% of those questioned siding against them, compared with 37% who say they “strongly” or “somewhat” support them.