Did the editors of the Mail, Sun and Telegraph go for drinks on Friday and decide to gang up on us?
As week one of the Rebellion reaches a close, and Extinction Rebellion continues to generate headlines around the world, attacks from certain quarters of the media are beginning to ramp up. We are familiar with this strategy, we’ve been here before.
These attacks depressingly tend to come hard and fast as any attempt to address the status quo of the worsening climate and ecological – and democractic – emergency emerges. This doesn’t just happen to Extinction Rebellion, but to any group and people that want change. We’ll take it as a compliment.
In light of what we’re about to face, we thought it best to address a few things for all to see. So here we go:
This morning the Mail on Sunday released the names of several people within Extinction Rebellion who claim Voluntary Living Expenses (VLE). They also highlighted the sacrifices being made not just by those who played a part in the founding of our moment, but by many people around Britain and around the world who have given up well-paying careers to dedicate their lives to addressing the crisis.
We understand this to be an attempt to shame them for asking for the basic funds to live and support themselves as they contribute their time to build this movement.
It is no secret that people claim expenses within Extinction Rebellion, in fact, we are actively open about this via our website, see here and also our FAQs. This movement takes pride in being open, honest and transparent. We don’t hide our sources of funding. We own our actions and hold our hands up high.
These expenses allow people to commit themselves to Extinction Rebellion to do so in a sustainable way, without being depleted financially, plus also ensuring that it is not just those in more comfortable financial situations who can contribute. We thank each and every person who is giving up so much of their time and energy to tackle this crisis, any attempt to shame them needs to be seen within this light.
Claims of VLE are based on need, they are not a salary. Most people out there will understand how difficult it is to get by in a city like London and this attempt to call out committed and dedicated people claiming the basic needs to pay room and board, and living expenses, is low.
At Extinction Rebellion we are working to move beyond a culture that blames and shames individuals – we ask these publications to do the same. This is a culture our society needs to move beyond if we are to truly face this emergency and learn how we got into this situation in the first place.
These attacks on Extinction Rebellion about our finances are ironic considering the owners of these papers have legally avoided paying billions of pounds in taxes to the UK treasury over the past 15 years. Taxes which could have helped reduce the pain, heartache and deaths caused by a decade of austerity cuts which have hit the most vulnerable working people in the UK the most.
We ask that these journalists stop looking to distract from the issue of the climate and ecological crisis and commit to covering the emergency with as much vigour as they do to attacking peaceful activists committing their energies to this cause.
Note: Extinction Rebellion will be staging a peaceful vigil outside Rupert Murdoch’s HQ at the Mini-Shard, London Bridge from 5pm on Wednesday.
Journalists Declare Emergency
We would like to be very clear this is not a calling out of all media, but a calling in of those that work at the Daily Mail, Mail Online, Mail on Sunday, Daily Telegraph and The Sun.
We know this cause has many friends within these publications, we talk with and read what you write, we know you want to tell a different story, a new story, one which is about people coming together rather than about division. We also know the Daily Telegraph has recently made a sizeable change in acknowledging that we are in an emergency – but are still somewhat addicted to the idea that a tech fix that doesn’t exist yet will get us out of this situation. The Sun and the Mail have also done some balanced journalism which we salute you for.
So hear us clearly journalists – this Emergency needs YOU. We have Culture Declares Emergency, Music Declares, Architects Declare, Lawyers, Scientists and Doctors for XR, we think now is the time for Journalists Declares Emergency. If you would like to get involved in this, please email us on email@example.com with Journalists Declares Emergency and we will get back to you.
NB: If you would like to interview any of the people who are giving up their time for this movement then please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following are the Mail on Sunday’s questions for us:
The article will detail that:
- Extinction Rebellion has considered contacting HMRC about whether paid volunteers will have to pay tax on their income and pay national insurance contributions
Yup! We asked for some professional independent advice on payment of financial support and expenses to volunteers. Turns out that in most cases no tax is payable and, where it is, those of us who receive financial support or expenses will be advised to declare any relevant income in our tax returns.
- Extinction Rebellion could face a significant bill from HMRC for failing to pay tax on expenses
From the advice we received it doesn’t look like we’ll have a liability to HMRC. It’s just going to be a matter of continuing to seek advice so that we ensure we remain compliant with UK legislation any pay any tax we owe.
- Compassionate Revolution Ltd is a registered company used for all XR activity. This company paid activists £152,000 to activists from the beginning of March to the end of June this year
Until recently, Compassionate Revolution Ltd has been the only legal entity used for XR activity, but please see our answer to #5 for more on this. The figure provided isn’t correct but we’re happy to confirm that the figures for the same period – which we have published in full transparency on our website – were £72,449. You can also find figures for subsequent months there too.
- We understand that Compassionate Revolution has a bank balance of over half a million pounds
Not quite! Total balances of the Compassionate Revolution Ltd accounts (as at 11 October) were £371,286.
- We understand that a new company called Climate Emergency Action has been set up to allow funds from charitable sources to be ring-fenced for legal activity
Right again! Thanks to the kindness of philanthropists who share our fear for the future, a new not-for-profit company has been established which now owns Compassionate Revolution Ltd. The new company rules include an ‘asset lock’ which means that any funds received can only be used for not-for-profit purposes and this applies to Compassionate Revolution as well.
- We also understand that Extinction Rebellion is actively considering a restructuring proposal by Nonviolent Global Liberation ltd which will cost £3million
It’s true that the movement has worked with Nonviolent Global Liberation (NGL) (almost entirely unpaid) since Autumn 2018 and in July received a proposal and a quote of c£3m. This was for support in designing a decentralised global governance model and NGL would bring skills around Self Organising Systems, Conflict, Training, Facilitation, Internationalism etc.
No decision has been made to accept the proposal for which funding would need to be identified.
- We understand that a European training tour was planned at the cost of £5000
We can confirm that several volunteers from Extinction Rebellion UK travelled to meet with environmental groups and national Extinction Rebellion groups in Europe to explain aspects of Extinction Rebellion UK’s organisation. Travel, living expenses for these individuals were reimbursed and some money went to venue hire too. A figure of £5,000 sounds about right.
- We understand that there was a proposal for training for the Regeneration group – including a workshop called ‘the food journey’ at the cost of £1000 for five 3-hour sessions.
Yes that proposal was made back in April. The workshops actually ended up being delivered free of charge.
- There seems to be some conflict within Extinction Rebellion over its lack of diversity.
It is important that there is conflict within Extinction Rebellion over lack of diversity. We live in a racist system, and Extinction Rebellion and the people within it are not separate from that system. Conflict is the tool by which deeper understanding might be found. We do not fear conflict. Rather we fear silence, so we are grateful for all the emotional labour that is spent by people of colour in Extinction Rebellion raising lack of diversity as an issue.
We are also grateful to the Mail on Sunday for inviting us to outline (below) what we are doing to tackle lack of diversity, oppression and inequality. Here are some of the things we are doing:
- XR Internationalist Solidarity Network works in mutualistic support with grassroots resistance movements primarily in the Global South.
- XR Together are running trainings on oppression and decoloniality for people within Extinction Rebellion.
- XR Connecting Communities are supporting people within Extinction Rebellion from various community groups and professions to reach out to their community and make a space for them with Extinction Rebellion.
- Extinction Rebellion Liberation is a group of Extinction Rebellion activists who have assembled with the goal of addressing oppression within XR, and using the platform XR has created to work with those addressing oppression in wider society.
This is not an exhaustive list and many others are doing important work in this area.
- The image that Extinction Rebellion presents of being hierarchy free is not entirely accurate and there seems to be some members within the organisation who have disproportionate power.
We are a decentralised organisation – anyone can do things in the name of Extinction Rebellion if they agree with and adhere to our principles and values – people don’t need anyone’s permission on that basis.
Power is invested in roles through the use of mandates rather than held by people. It is our aim to be free from hierarchy and we innovate with systems of organisation that build on the human ethic of humility and help to create a flat organisational structure. There is lots more information about this on the FAQs area of our website.
The media are often more interested in speaking to the people who founded the movement which might give a distorted perspective on hierarchy. We are working hard to platform many of the amazing voices within this movement and tell their stories, but it can be a tough sell. We’ve no doubt the founders are quite tired of answering the same questions anyway!
- Extinction Rebellion has considered actions that include a ‘European pause’ planning to shut down numerous European airports.
We can confirm that the movement has discussed, at length, whether or not to support the Heathrow Pause action, and decided to neither condone nor condemn it and that it would continue as an independent action.
It is likely there were discussions about a ‘pause’ at other European airports by individuals in our movement, but had the movement been asked to support such actions we would not expect a different outcome to that reached for the Heathrow Pause.
- Extinction Rebellion has had multiple meetings with Labour’s shadow treasury team including one last month.
Extinction Rebellion has had many meetings with numerous politicians of different political parties since it began. They include John McDonnell, Sadiq Khan and Michael Gove (twice!). We announced these meetings on our website, have a look here.
Clive Lewis was in attendance at our People’s Assembly in Parliament on Tuesday.
- Extinction Rebellion allegedly spent £50,000 on European election candidacies.
Sorry to disappoint, but this one’s not true. Nine supporters of Extinction Rebellion including our co-founder, Roger Hallam, entered the European Elections as independent candidates in London and the South West. No Extinction Rebellion finances or logistical support was provided to these individuals for the 4-5 weeks of their campaign. Their costs came from their personal savings or were raised from private donations and their own crowdfunder.
- A member of Extinction Rebellion has suggested that XR and Russia Today have aligned goals.
We’re not sure where this came from but it seems odd attempting to compare a movement to a state broadcaster without providing further context. We are decentralised and people act alone. This sounds like a personal opinion rather than an official line.
About Extinction Rebellion:
Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and abrupt, runaway climate change. Societal collapse and mass death are seen as inevitable by scientists and other credible voices, with human extinction also a possibility, if rapid action is not taken.
Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.
Extinction Rebellion’s key demands are:
- Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
- Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
- Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.
- In the UK, come to one of our events, join the Rebellion Network and let us know how you can help out.
- Start a group where you are: in the UK or around the world.
- Find your local group.
- Check out the International XR website, with links to the French, German, Italian and UK websites.
- And while your time and energy are of most importance, if you are financially able to donate money, see our crowdfunder.
About Rising Up!
Extinction Rebellion is an initiative of the Rising Up! network, which promotes a fundamental change of our political and economic system to one which maximises well-being and minimises harm. Change needs to be nurtured in a culture of reverence, gratitude and inclusion while the tools of civil disobedience and direct action are used to express our collective power.
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