Extinction Rebellion, civil disobedience and NUBSLI members

By NUBSLI | Published on 11 October 2019

Last updated on November 14th, 2022 at 10:26 am

The committee recently received an enquiry (below) from a member asking if we would circulate a call out for volunteer interpreters at Extinction Rebellion events to NUBSLI members.  Before we shared it with you, we felt it prudent to check if Unite has a policy on supporting organised civil disobedience.

We appreciate that this is being published late in the day for anyone who may have wanted to provide services during the most recent action that XR are taking, but we hope it will still prove useful for members who may consider providing interpreting services to this cause in future.  We will, of course, advise of any changes in Unite’s position as and when they happen.

 The response we received from Unite and the call out are both listed below.

Response from Unite

Unite does not have a specific policy on Extinction Rebellion or civil disobedience. Unite deals with calls to take action such as the recent climate change strike on a case by case basis and then issues advice to members.

Unite would consider whether or not the proposed action is in line with the union’s aims and objectives and be mindful of the legal implications for Unite.

Whilst individual members might wish to support this action, they should not engage in any activities in support of that action which endanger their livelihoods.

Advice for NUBSLI members

It would be a good idea for the individual NUBSLI member before or at the start of the demo to approach the Police and clarify the capacity in which he/she/they is attending the demo i.e. he/she/they is attending in their capacity as a BSL/English interpreter to assist those protestors from the Deaf Community to understand what is going on. This of course would include any verbal communication the police are having with the demonstrators so that the BSL/English interpreter is providing a valuable service to both protestors and the police.

It would also be advisable for a Unite member attending the demonstration in his/her/their capacity as a BSL/English interpreter to wear an armband identifying him/her/themself as such.

This should reduce the likelihood of any arrest taking place.

Call out for interpreters

NUBSLI received the following request from one of our members:

XR is an international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and minimise the risk of social collapse.

They have a Disabilities Network, a group of deaf and disabled rebels.  They’ve been trying to get XR to be more accessible for deaf rebels, but so far have not had the ability, capacity or funds to make XR accessible to them.

They would love to be able to provide BSL interpreters for training, speeches and other events, and some translations for information sent out through social media.

If, like me, you want to take action in the face of the current global catastrophe we are facing, please consider, as one way of doing this, offering to volunteer interpret with XR (as well as taking whatever action you are taking yourself).

I’ve offered to support the XR Disabilities Network in finding interpreters willing to support the uprising in this way.  Please email me directly, without commitment, at darrenth@gmail.com if you’re up for this.

I don’t yet know how this will be managed, but suspect that we will compile a national list of interpreters / translators willing to travel and/or do translations, then also have regional lists, possibly with a lead interpreter in each region with a list of local interpreters willing to take part in regional actions.

I have contacted NRCPD to get guidance re. the implications for NRCPD registered interpreters taking part in actions, whether arrested, charged and/or convicted of interpreting at or taking part in non-violent action.  I’ll share that information through NUBSLI when I have a response.

The XR Uprising, from Monday 7th to Saturday 19th October 2019

I’ve included information about this, as this is a major action that XR will need interpreters for, and you may want to keep dates free either to be available to interpret and/or be part of this.

“Starting on October 7th, Extinction Rebellion groups across the world will gather in key cities to rebel.  It’s going to be huge.

Starting on Monday 7th October and continuing for as long as it takes, Extinction Rebellion and allied movements will peacefully shut down all roads into Westminster in Central London and nonviolently disrupt the government until our leaders agree to TAKE EMERGENCY ACTION NOW.

Other nonviolent actions will target corporations, ministries and infrastructure that maintain the unsustainable status quo.

The breakdown of our climate has begun. We’re nearly out of time. Take two weeks off work, bring your family and friends and join us in the streets for a one time only ‘chance of life’. The time is now.”

XR (and I) can organise free accommodation for interpreters / translators from outside of London who would like to volunteer and/or take part in the London action.

Please share this with interpreters / translators you think may be interested in volunteering.