Environmental Protest Groups: Tactics and Terms

Environmental protest groups will likely continue to use social media and conduct demonstrations and disruption campaigns to generate attention and support for their cause nationwide. In 2019, activists carried out demonstrations, unannounced pop-up protests, and acts of civil disobedience in major cities worldwide, including the District.

  • On September 23, police arrested 32 protesters in the District for blocking roadways and key intersections and causing traffic delays during the “#ShutDownDC Global Climate Strike 2019.” Demonstrators blocked roads with human chains, cars, and vans, conducted sit-ins, and chained themselves to ladders and a sailboat to disrupt traffic flow. Major commuter routes and intersections—including intersections at K and 16th Street NW, Washington and Independence Avenue NW, and 3rd Street and New York Avenue NW—were blocked. According to authorities, the roadblocks inconvenienced “thousands of people” during their morning commute.

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

Environmental protest groups are staging more frequent demonstrations and employing a variety of civil disobedience tactics to disrupt traffic, commuting, and normal business activities. The groups often target high profile landmarks and the transportation sector—including bridges, waterways, public transportation networks, and public thoroughfares.

The NTIC encourages the public to report all suspicious activity to local authorities through the iWatchDC platform.

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