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What is Extinction Rebellion and what does it want?

WATCH: Extinction Rebellion protesters across Canada demand climate action

Blocking bridges and unfurling banners, many major cities around the world — including several Canadian metropolises — woke up to headlines about a worldwide climate protest called Extinction Rebellion.

What exactly is Extinction Rebellion? If this is the first time you’re hearing about it, you’re likely not alone.

What is it?

Extinction Rebellion describes itself as an “international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and minimize the risk of social collapse.”

Instead of petitions or letter-writing campaigns, the movement focuses on non-violent civil disobedience. “We are asking people to find their courage and to collectively do what is necessary to bring about change,” the organization’s website says.

READ MORE: Climate change activists block bridges, cause traffic chaos across Canada

The movement also emphasizes taking part in civil disobedience in “full public view.”

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“This means economic disruption to shake the current political system and civil disruption to raise awareness,” the website says. “We are deeply sorry for any inconvenience that this causes.”

The movement also says it informs law enforcement about its actions in order for “things to go well.”

When did it start?

According to the website, the movement kicked off in October, 2018, when protesters in London, U.K. gathered to “announce a Declaration of Rebellion” against the British government. They only expected maybe 200 people — but 1,500 wound up attending.

The movement then blocked bridges across the River Thames in London, went tree-planting in the city, and “super-glued” themselves to the gates of Buckingham Palace.

“Our actions generated huge national and international publicity and, as news spread, our ideas connected with tens of thousands of people around the world,” the site says.

The movement garnered international headlines in April, 2019, when protesters blocked traffic in central London for almost two weeks.

Mass arrests in London as Extinction Rebellion kicks off global climate action
Mass arrests in London as Extinction Rebellion kicks off global climate action

What do they want?

The movement has three demands in the U.K., at least: “tell the truth,” “act now,” and go “beyond politics.”

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It wants the U.K. government to declare a “climate and ecological emergency;” cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025; and create a citizens’ assembly — run by NGOs with independent oversight — that can lead policymakers on decisions about “climate and ecological justice.”

In Canada, the demands are similar: the movement wants the government to “tell the truth about how deadly our situation is”; pass into law policies to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by the year 2025; and create a “citizens’ assembly” to decide on actions needed to fulfill goals.

Couple weds amid Extinction Rebellion protests in London
Couple weds amid Extinction Rebellion protests in London

READ MORE: Climate change activists close Vancouver’s Burrard Bridge to traffic

Why are they blocking traffic?

The movement’s global rebellion began Monday, Oct. 7, and will include peaceful assemblies over the next two weeks in more than 60 cities around the world.

“Together, we will peacefully occupy the centres of power and shut them down until governments act on the Climate and Ecological Emergency,” the U.K. website says, noting that the international and decentralized nature of the movement means there may be protests taking place around the world that they “do not yet know about.”

“Leave your desk. Invite your boss. Walk out of school. Switch off the TV. Put down your phone. Get on the streets. And bring everybody.”

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Extinction Rebellion protesters took to 60 bridges around the world Monday under a campaign called #BridgeOut.

What can we expect next?

As the movement says online, Extinction Rebellion protests will continue in cities worldwide over the next two weeks, with specific plans varying by city. For instance, Prague has a “national rebellion” planned for October 10 to 12.

London, U.K. has a detailed plan for the various protests and actions expected right here, including a hunger strike on October 14. And Extinction Rebellion Canada appears to be tweeting updates from here.

With files from Reuters