An event this month aims to unite over 200 of Bristol’s climate and social justice campaign groups to work together to solve common problems.
Stronger as One has been organised by Extinction Rebellion (XR) Bristol, although a spokesperson for the group, Nigel Shipley, stressed that this is not an XR event.
‘We happen to be inviting people,’ said Nigel, but, ‘we don’t want to be the ones who lead it at all.’
XR Bristol have hired an independent facilitator, Manu Maunganidze, to lead the event which is intended to start a conversation between our city’s climate and social justice groups exploring common ground, shared values and ways of uniting against the most pressing issues of the moment.
The economic crisis is happening alongside social crises like the collapse of the NHS, and alongside the climate and ecological crisis, said Nigel.
‘But the solutions are often very much the same,’ he added, and many campaign groups are ‘looking at the same picture perhaps from different angles.’
XR Bristol have identified 210 different groups in the city campaigning on issues of climate and social justice. Invitations to the meeting have been sent out to each of the groups.
‘Individually all of them, and Extinction Rebellion on our own, can’t really make much of a difference. But the obvious thing is that if we support each other then we make a much bigger splash,’ said Nigel.
Nigel explained that local XR groups across the UK are reaching out in similar ways as part of a national shift in XR’s core tactics away from public disruption.
In a statement on New Year’s Eve, titled “We Quit”, Extinction Rebellion UK announced that the group would no longer pursue public disruption as a primary tactic, focusing instead on growing the movement and targeting specific bad actors like the government and the banks that finance fossil fuels.
Part of the statement read: ‘In a time when speaking out and taking action are criminalised, building collective power, strengthening in number and thriving through bridge-building is a radical act.
‘XR is committed to including everyone in this work and leaving no one behind, because everyone has a role to play. This year, we prioritise attendance over arrest and relationships over roadblocks, as we stand together and become impossible to ignore.’
Building a “movement of movements”, or a broad coalition, has long been a goal of XR nationally, however the group has had limited success in this area, often being viewed as unresponsive to claims that its tactics exclude black people and disproportionately target working class people.
Criticism from the wider public has often taken the form of “we support your aims but not your methods”, said Nigel. He hopes that holding the Stronger as One meeting against the backdrop of the national shift away from disruptive tactics will help improve the group’s chances of success this time.
The Stronger as One meeting will be held on January 19 at the Malcolm X Centre and interested groups can sign up via Eventbrite.