The Czech branch of Extinction Rebellion held a peaceful demonstration with a traffic blockade, intending to call attention to the climate crisis. The blockade lasted 40 minutes.
Dozens of campaigners demanded climate change policy reform from the Czech government. Around 100 protesters laid down on the pedestrian crossing by the National Museum.
“There is a climate and ecological crisis,” national coordinator of Extinction Rebellion in the Czech Republic Kate Wiseman says. “And governments of the world, which have the power to legislate and stop the worst impacts of this crisis, are not doing enough.”
The impact of global warming on the Czech Republic has been manifested by six consecutive years of drought and deforestation at an alarming rate.
“30 percent of Czech forests are gone,” Wiseman says. “I know people can say ‘bark beetles are destroying the forests’, but climate change makes the bark beetle problem much worse in two ways: firstly, bark beetles reproduce more frequently because it is not cold enough in winter anymore; secondly, trees cannot fight bark beetles because of drought: they do not get enough water from the soil.”
Describing itself as an international “non-violent civil disobedience activist movement”, Extinction Rebellion (abbreviated as XR) has three demands:
- Tell the truth: The movement wants the Czech government, media and schools to inform the public about the seriousness of the extreme weather caused by heating. The biggest thing XR wants under this demand is the Czech Republic to declare the climate and ecological emergency. “After the April protest in London, the United Kingdom declared the climate emergency,” Wiseman says. “We are a bit behind here in the Czech Republic with regards to “Tell the truth” demand. The Czech Republic along with Poland, Hungary, and Estonia refused to adapt the EU climate neutrality target at the summit in Brussels on June 20, 2019, as the Guardian
- Act now: XR demands the Czech Republic to become carbon neutral by 2025. “It is challenging but possible,” Wiseman states. “We are going to have a different life, but it is a lot better than what is coming if we do absolutely nothing.”
- Beyond politics: The movement believes the democracy is broken on a matter of climate and ecological crisis. XR suggests creating a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice. It is a form of more direct democracy, under which Czech citizens will decide how to go carbon neutral by 2025. “As a movement, we do not propose solutions,” Wiseman explains. “Our job is to allow people to choose solutions through a democratic process that has delivered progressive results on difficult political problems like the Irish abortion referendum.”
Extinction Rebellion activists are subject to criticism and harassment in many countries, including the Czech Republic. Jiří Ovčáček, a spokesman for President Miloš Zeman, compared the extinction symbol, a stylized hourglass within a circle, to the Nazi swastika, as Wiseman says. Former Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Mirek Topolánek tweeted: “I request that the Extinction Rebellion be included in the list of potential terrorist organizations.”
Žádám, aby Extincion Rebellion byla zařazena na seznam potenciálně teroristických organizací. Co udělají poté, až šíření poplašných zpráv, nezákonné blokády a nátlakové akce nezaberou. Budou se radikalizovat jako Antifa? Nebo jako Rote Armee Fraction?https://t.co/OGpnPbZnIH
— Mirek Topolánek (@MirekTopolanek) October 5, 2019
“Even though we are much smaller than in the UK and have not had a direct response from Babiš or Zeman, we are still getting the same kind of response from the people who represent the system that needs to be changed,” Wiseman says.
Prague joined the second period of the International Climate Rebellion, started on October 7 in London, Paris, Berlin, New York and 60 other cities (where Extinction Rebellion is present) across the world. Formed in April 2018 in the United Kingdom, Extinction Rebellion has expanded to now include 340 groups in 72 countries.
Hundreds of protesters around the world have been arrested during the climate strike. The Guardian reports that almost 1,300 arrests of Extinction Rebellion have been made since Monday in the UK. The Prague police removed protesters from the road individually and checked their IDs, but the mood remained peaceful. About 20 rebels, who were involved in road blocking on Friday, have been taken to a police station for a repeated minor offense.
By the demonstration with a traffic block, the movement also wants to inspire Czechs who are worried about the climate crisis but feel that they cannot do anything about it. “We hope to do something loud enough to reach those Czechs and give them courage and confidence to create change on this matter,” Wiseman says.
Eyewitnesses of the demonstration share differing opinions on the activists.
“I feel sorry for policemen who have to deal with those clowns,” says a tourist from Russia Vladislav. “By blocking the road, you are just wasting everybody’s time.”
“I think blocking oxygen is more important,” interrupts Lucinka, a student from Prague. “Not to be shady, but we are going to die if we do not do something.”