PROTEST NUMBERS: What the data says about the #XR Canning Town protest


I was struck by the blowback online and radio from the failed Extinction Rebellion protest at Canning Town this week.

Two protestors climbed a DLR train and were pulled off and attacked by commuters.
The group have been campaigning for the past 12-months modelled on previous historic civil disobedience campaigns.
The internet went into meltdown at the perceived stupidity of targeting public transport at a station in a deprived area.
It appears the idea was floated amongst campaigners and 70 per cent voted against it. But two protestors went ahead and did it anyway.
The reaction online was largely negative.


Devolved campaigns devolve risk

This is the dilemma.
Centralise and you won’t tap into the organisation’s groundswell of energy. But share the sweets and you may get misfiring. So, the strength of the campaign is also the weakness.
The core audience of Extinction Rebellion’s support is people who believe in the danger of climate change. But the group need to broaden their support. The public transport user is part of that wider constituency the campaign needs to win. But forget who your audience is and you’re in trouble.
Intersetingly, central Extinction Rebellion issued this post which set out how the decision had been made and pointed out that most people in the organisation didn’t want it. It’s interesting that learning from their work is one of their principles.

Data would say that the incidents shone greater attention on the campaign

But the data would say in simple terms the incident shone a light on the campaign.
The blue peak is searches for extinction rebellion, red is climate change and yellow is Canning Town station just after 6.28am. The data shows a massive spike on Google for the search term ‘Extinction Rebellion’ around the time of the incident.
But crude numbers are not the metric. That’s the Gary Glitter school of PR success.

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