Climate Protests: Security Threat or Necessary Pressure?

Disruptive climate protests are, by design, controversial.

Disruptive action grabs headlines and spreads a message but public sympathy dries up when ordinary people are inconvenienced. Meanwhile, protestors don’t seem to care about the lack of public support or legal consequences – history, they believe, will prove them right.

This is all fairly ordinary for a protest movement, though what is not ordinary about current disruptive climate protests, such as Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain, is the even representation across age groups.

This isn’t surprising when studies have shown that climate anxiety is felt evenly across society and Baby Boomers are more likely to believe that changing behaviour will make a difference to tackling climate change.

Disobedience is somewhat expected of teenagers and young adults but to see it from people in retirement age drives home how much of the population feels affected by the climate crisis to the point that they will risk their safety and a clean criminal record to fight it.

Regardless of personal approval or disapproval of such movements, we must not underestimate just how broad their reach will be. The climate crisis is unique in that it has genuinely apocalyptic stakes. Current projections paint a grim picture of the future of humanity itself.

In such an extreme situation, we cannot be surprised if people act extremely.

Who’s to blame for climate protests?

As a security company, we have to be security-minded. We cannot condone property damage in the name of activism and we certainly cannot condone violence – no matter the cause.

But when people are so angry and desperate that they resort to disruptive and destructive behaviour, it is worth asking what made them feel that way so that we can find the cause.

In the case of climate activists, it’s easy to see why they feel pushed to take action. When asked why they put themselves in harm’s way, climate activists respond that our government, society and industries are failing in the face of an apocalyptic threat.

“I’m here today out of anger, fear and determination. The anger my government is failing the people of our country,” said a 71-year-old Insulate Britain protestor. “Everyone says we’re at the 11th hour but we’re at midnight and nothing substantial is being done by our government.”

The question we have to ask ourselves is: are they wrong?

We know for a fact that greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet at a dangerous rate. When someone is told this fact yet sees little or nothing being done by those in power, we can’t be surprised if they decide to take drastic action.

At Magenta Security, we believe the risks posed by climate activists would be best addressed by this government proving that they are willing to do whatever it takes to save our planet, rather than rely on more policing of protests.

The vast majority of the UK public is concerned about climate change, have experienced climate change and believe that we can, by working together, reduce its effects. These figures are rising.

If the government does not prove itself to be strong on climate change, more people will join protest movements and more of those movements will become disruptive. Given recent disappointments in the midst of COP26, we expect protects will continue for years to come.

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