When does Activism become Terrorism?

by Jo Salter

Photo from Extinction Rebellion Suffolk Sunrise demonstration in #ipswich 2019 taken by Jo Salter when does activism become terrorism
Extinction Rebellion Suffolk Sunrise demonstration in Ipswich 2019

Yesterday’s events in the USA remind us that:


Believing you are right is not enough.


Having friends in high places does not justify breaking the law.


Violence changes your message to hate and your demonstration to destruction.

As activists our goal is to inspire people to consider and commit to behaviour change through education and facts, dialogue and discussion. But we must always do this through positive means and never hate. We can disagree but we must not denigrate. We must paint a vision of the world we want and take people with us on the journey.

Peaceful demonstration is a means to inspire and educate as well as show depth of feeling for a cause. It is legal in democracy and has been used effectively to provoke thought and widen discussion. Greta’s school protests took her from individual action to addressing global leaders. Extinction Rebellion gave an outlet to the many people who felt voiceless in the shadow of climate change. The peaceful protests ensured media coverage and brought the topic to the mainstream, but any reports of aggression turned public support to wariness.

When commitment becomes obsession and rationality becomes dogma there is a danger of activism turning to terrorism. People are energised to activism by an inspiring leader and a relatable goal – lose either of these and the vision is lost.

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