I was interviewed by John Humphrys on the flagship BBC Radio 4 program Today about Extinction Rebellion. Tune in to hear me dismantle the politically-motivated, shadily-funded, attempted hatchet job of a report released by the Policy Exchange think tank.
The full transcript is available to view here:
John Humphrys: For 11 days last April many streets in the centre of London were blocked solid by supporters of XR campaign protesting against climate change. Now they have taken their protest to other cities including Cardiff, Glasgow, Bristol, Leeds as well as London again. Here´s Greta Thunberg the young climate activist addressing protesters in London in April. [GT – speech to crowd – hooray!!] On this program an hour ago, the former head of counter terrorism at New Scotland Yard, Richard Walton described XR as a hard-core anarchist group who want to break-up our democracy:
[Excerpt] Richard Walton: I was asked by Policy Exchange to have a look at XR and I thought it would be just like any other environmentalist group, errm, sadly after a lot of deep research, errm, it´s very clear that they´re a hard-core anarchist group, erm, that want to, basically, break-up our democracy
JH: [Sounding stern and serious] Well, Rupert Read of XR is with me, good morning to you.
Rupert Read: Good morning.
JH: What do you make of that?
RR: Well, I think it´s a funny kind of revolution that´s trying to break up the state and break-up democracy, if it takes a year for a top counter-terrorism officer to dredge-up a few quotes that he can try to paint a funny picture around, in order to make the case. What we are is a mass movement of ordinary people of all ages and all kinds who are coming together to stand-up because we´re facing an existential threat, we´re facing the possible end of our civilisation and people aren´t happy about that, and yeah, they want radical change, we want radical change, don´t we all?
JH: Well, we want change, a lot of people want change, certainly, but that depends how it´s brought about. So let me quote to you what one of your leading people Roger Hallam said in February of this year “We´re not just sending-out emails and asking you for donations, we´re going to force the government to act and if they don´t we will bring them down and create a democracy fit for purpose. And, yes, some might die in the process.”
RR: Well, I´d rather live on a healthy planet than die. But if we look at what happened with the suffragettes, if we look at with the civil rights movement, people did die in those movements, and this movement, this struggle, is even bigger than those. But, do you know what? If people die it´s not going to be because of us, because we an absolutely non-violent movement. The non-violent discipline that we showed in April which has been absolutely strong is one of the key reasons why the British public swung behind us. Because that´s the fact, that 67% of people after the rebellion in April concluded, agreed with us, that there is a climate emergency and the government needs to act now.
JH: [Loudly] But! That´s one thing, it´s a big step further beyond that to say we are going to force the government to act, and if they don´t we´ll bring them down and create a democracy fit for purpose. And, yes, some might die in the process. That´s an enormous step beyond what you just said. Isn´t it?
RR: Well, Mr Walton said we want to break-up democracy..
JH: [Interjects loudly] I´m asking you to comment on what Mr Hallam, your Roger Hallam said.
RR: Look, if you go through the enormous, voluminous works of Roger Hallam, I´m sure you can dredge-up one or two quotes that I might disagree with the nuances of..
JH: Ah, so you do disagree with it…
RR: Well, well, [collecting thoughts] I´m wouldn´t necessarily have used those precise words myself, but what I would like to bring out from those words that I do strongly agree with, is that what this is not about is breaking-up democracy, this is about, as Roger was saying in that quote, is creating a real democracy, because everybody knows…
JH: [Urgent interjection again] Who, whose democracy is that?
RR: [continues through interjection] … that democracy is failing us..
JH: Sorry, whose democracy is the real democracy?
RR: The real democracy is the democracy we want to create. If you asked Ghandi what he thought of British democracy he would I´m sure tell you that he thinks it would be a good idea. How can it be democratic for us to be…
JH: [interjecting] Because there was no democracy as we undertstand it when Ghandi staged his protests [chuckles derisively] because it was a colonial country. You´re not surely making a comparison with this country? We have a vote, in this country, it is a democracy, and you want to bring it down?
RR: Look, 67% of people said hey there´s a climate emergency and the government needs to act now to deal with it, but that´s absolutely not happening, and that´s why we´ll be back on the streets until it does happen.
RR: That´s why our rebellion in October will be stronger and bigger than the rebellion in April, and if anyone listening to this wants to come and join us put October 7 in your diary, that´s the date it´s going to start, and we will be back on the streets until the government acts [JH attempts to break-in] and faces-up to this terrible crisis [JH interjection attempt] which is going to destroy us…
JH: And doing what? What else apart from protesting in the street, what else are you prepared to do?
RR: Well, we´ll be taking-action probably against financial institutions, we´ll be taking-action…
JH: [interjects] What´s that mean.. Taking-action against them. What´s that mean?
RR: Well, it might mean things such as blockading them, it might mean things such as having some kind of er, debt strike there are…
JH: [interjects] Debt strike?
RR: …various kind of ways..
JH: Can you explain?
RR: Yes. It might be refusing to er, repay debts that are taken out from financial institutions that are acting completely irresponsibly because they´re putting our very future at risk, and that´s what this is all about, let´s keep coming back to that, John, because this report, this report is trying to take aim at XR and saying “Oh look, what Roger Hallam said about this or that.” This report seems completely uninterested in science, completely uninterested in children, completely uninterested in our future, and that´s what this is about, this report, the only purpose of this report is to defend business as usual, and it´s business as usual that is killing us, and what I´d love you to do John is to ask who is funding this report who funds Policy Exchange? Because that´s what you didn´t do when you talked to Mr Walton earlier. The funders of Policy Exchange are completely non-transparent. But I bet you if we were to find out who they were, we would find out in whose interest it is to undermine XR. For example, maybe it´s the fossil fuel companies.
JH: That may be, I´ve no idea, but Richard Walton…
RR: [interjecting] Well, why don´t you find-out John. Why didn´t you ask Mr Walton about that?
JH: Because I was talking to him as former head of counter-terrorism at New Scotland Yard [chuckling], which is what his job was…
RR: [interjects] But who funds him, who is his paymaster now? That´s the real issue. Because we deserve to know about that. [JH fails to interject several times] This isn´t about the words of Roger Hallam or Gail Bradbrook this is about who´s trying to undermine Extinction Rebellion, and I think many of your listeners will agree with me, that actually what we ought to be doing is getting behind a movement that is trying to save our future not throwing barbs at it.
JH: A movement that is prepared to break the law.
RR: Absolutely, we´re prepared to break the law, we´re a rebellion, the clue´s in the name, because how can a government be fully legitimate that is putting us on a path, a serene path, if you see what I mean, to destruction, they´re serenely taking us down the road to mass destruction..
JH: [interjects] And you want to, and you want to bring down capitalism. That´s what your tweet in April said “This movement is the best chance we have of bringing down capitalism.” I mean you are aware that capitalism has produced some of the wealth in this country that has enabled people to have a decent life and you are aware of what capitalism does.
RR: Look John, I think that everybody knows that our current system is failing and that´s what we´re asking. We´re asking people to stop and take a look at our system and be ready to reassess it because if we don´t do that and fast then we´re in dire trouble and Antonio Guterres the Secretary General of the UN says, we´ve got not 10 years but 2 years to start seriously acting if we´re to get this crisis back in some kind of tenable state, and that was last year that he said that, so we´ve got one year left to start acting seriously! That´s why we´ll be back on the streets, that´s why we´re willing to break the law, yes, that´s why 1100 people got arrested and transformed consciousness around this issue, in this country, for the better. And that´s what´s giving us some real hope for the future.
JH: And just one final thought then. You want our GDP to stop rising. “Drop the rising GDP it is nothing to be proud of. Before or after we cause our civilisation to collapse.” So, in other words, you want there to be a permanent state of recession in this country. That is your position is it?
RR: Look, on the one hand we´ve got business as usual which is what this report Mr Walton is asking for, is what Policy Exchange is asking for…
JH: [speaking over Rupert] Right, so recession, that´s what you´re arguing for. It´s a straightforward question [superciliously].
RR: The alternatives, John, the alternatives on the one hand business as usual, and climate break down and mass death, on the other hand we reassess and try to find a way of going forward together so that we can actually live and prosper together, and I really don´t think that´s too much to ask. I really don´t think that´s remotely extreme. That´s common sense.
JH: Rupert Read many thanks [end].