Environmental Protest Groups Aim to Disrupt Traffic

In an effort to raise awareness about climate change and other environmental issues, protest groups are likely to continue using disruption tactics that impact commuter traffic due to their effectiveness and the amount of media attention garnered. Last year environmental protest groups worldwide vowed to increase their global climate change awareness campaign and to shed light on the supposed inaction of governments in addressing this issue. Climate change-related demonstrations and unnanounced pop-up protests have occurred in many major cities worldwide, including the District. These groups often target city landmarks, public transportation networks, and critical infrastructure, such as bridges.


  • On September 23, police arrested 32 protesters who blocked roadways and key intersections causing traffic delays during the “#ShutDownDC Global Climate Strike 2019”. Demonstrators blocked roads with human chains, cars, and vans, conducted sit-ins, and locked themselves to ladders and a sailboat to disrupt traffic flow and raise awareness about their concerns. Road blockades of major commuter routes and intersections included the intersection of K and 16th streets, Washington and Independence avenues, and 3rd Street and New York Avenue. According to authorities, these roadblocks inconvenienced “thousands of people” during their morning commute.


  • During the September 23 climate protest, the hashtag #ShutDownDC trended on social media platforms, and became a top used hashtag on online posts. The event had a large online following, sparking debate between Internet users, citizens, and media outlets. The protest was also live-streamed by demonstrators, bystanders, and online reporters, such as Unicorn Riot, adding to the event’s media attention and popularity.

  • In July, 17 members of the enviromental activist movement Extinction Rebellion (XR) glued themselves to each other, the underground shuttle, and metro entranceways in the US Capitol building. The group hoped to disrupt commuter traffic and interact with Congresspeople on their way to a vote. They were later arrested on various charges including crowding, obstructing or incommoding, defacing public property, and resisting arrest.


Extinction Rebellion (XR) 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.” XR operations use small groups of demonstrators distributed throughout major cities who aim to disrupt and target transportation networks and large businesses they deem “climate criminals.”



Demonstrators “locked-on” to a sailboat at the intersection of K and 16th streets during the #ShutDownDC climate protest, which resulted in traffic delays. (Source: WTOP)

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