Participation of young people in Extinction Rebellion

Oxford Extinction Rebellion welcomes participation from people under the age of 18…but it’s important to understand some details of our position. 

XR Youth Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire has an active XR Youth group which welcomes 14-25-year-olds (currently most members are aged 14-20). This may well be the most appropriate group for under-18s to join. Links can be found on this page.

However, we are aware that young people may want to be involved with the main (adult) XR Oxford group, either in addition to or instead of XR Youth. Our position on this is set out below. 

16 and 17-year olds

We welcome the participation of unaccompanied youths (16 or 17 years) in our actions, and at our meetings and they are welcome to join our mailing list / Telegram channels. However, young people and their parents should be aware we have no formal safeguarding arrangements and, we can accept no legal duty of care for such young people either as Extinction Rebellion Oxford or as individuals.

Without making any binding commitments, we will do our best to make sure that under 18s are kept in the information loop so that they can make their own informed decisions about joining our activities. No pressure will be put on any young people to take part in actions. We will try to ensure that under 18s who attend meetings are not left alone with single adults, but remain in a group of three or more people at all times. Parents / carers who would like to check us out are very welcome to attend meetings with their young people.

We think it is preferable for 16 and 17-year olds joining us, at meetings and in action, to be doing so with the agreement and support of their parents but we cannot insist on this. 

Under 16s

We cannot recommend that any children under 16 participate in any of our activities or meetings without the presence of a parent /carer with legal responsibility for them, such as a parent. Realistically, we know that some children may come anyway, particularly to actions, but we don’t encourage this and accept no legal duty of care for such unaccompanied minors. We also have no way of checking who is under 16 and who is over 16. Of course, in practice, if any of us as individuals come across children needing help, we will do the decent thing as we would in any situation, without accepting a legal duty of care.

We will not knowingly add under-16s to any of our communications channels, and while we can’t stop them signing up independently on our website we would prefer them not to do so. 

Accompanied children

Children with their parents or guardians are welcome to attend XR actions, but their carers are encouraged to think carefully about the nature of the specific event – some activities might be appropriate for families, others not so. An Oxford-based affinity group (a way for activists to organise themselves into groups who get to know each other) for families has existed in the past and may be reformed in the near future, in which case details will be found on our website.

Additional background information about XR for under 18s and their parents / carers

First, for people who don’t know much about XR, we are dedicated to taking action in an attempt to halt the processes of ecological and climate breakdown. Mainstream science tells us that these human caused processes threaten the very existence of our civilisations, yet governments have so far failed to take adequate action to tackle them. XR has chosen to include disruptive non-violent civil disobedience among a range of types of action, in an attempt to get governments to finally take the action necessary.

More information about the movement is here: https://rebellion.earth/

In our local, Oxford based actions, we have tended to focus on actions which are theatrical rather than disruptive. Taking part in these kinds of actions generally carries very little risk of arrest, though of course we can make no guarantees. 

Getting involved in national XR actions (such as those planned for April 2022) can involve breaking the law – for example by blocking roads in order to cause disruption – which obviously carries a risk of getting arrested, though it is also the case that there are always ways to be involved with or to support national actions without doing anything illegal.

So far, it has been the experience of Oxford rebels that the police have usually given extensive warnings before arresting people (meaning it’s possible to avoid arrest). However, new and forthcoming legislation (including the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, which is now law) makes it easier for the police to place restrictions on what is allowed at a protest and to arrest people who do not comply. The maximum sentences for some protest-related offences have also increased significantly. It is too soon to know what the practical impact of this new legislation will be, but it’s certainly possible it will increase both the likelihood of arrest and the likely sentence if convicted of a crime.

An additional potential risk at protests is violence from the police. So far, police in the UK have tended not to be violent towards XR protesters (largely because the protesters themselves are always entirely peaceful) though there have been exceptions to this.

This position document was prepared by a group of Oxford XR adults and youths who were delegated the responsibility by the 5/4/2019 fortnightly general meeting. It was further updated after discussion at a coordinators meeting in February 2022, in consultation with a small group of adults and XR Youth members. The latest version was approved by XR Oxford Coordinators in December 2022.