Today, many people have great concerns about climate issues. Some demand rapid change and become involved in protests. To better understand what drives people to protest against climate change in peaceful, illegal, or violent ways, we conducted a qualitative interview study. We talked to more than 100 people who affiliated with the Dutch department of Extinction Rebellion.
Protesters spoke about their motivations to take action, their opinions of the police, the law, and the use of violent tactics. We specifically paid attention to protesters’ perceptions of unfairness because earlier research showed that perceived unfairness is an important predictor of collective action (Van Stekelenburg & Klandermans, 2013) and is associated with increased radicalization (Van den Bos, 2018) .
Our findings reveal that climate protesters are driven by unfairness about what is happening in their current and immediate environment. Furthermore, they also integrate information derived from different time frames, focusing on injustices in the past and especially in the future, and from distal social dynamics, concerning injustices in societies far removed from them. We observed that protesters differed in their views on the police, what justifies breaking the law, and when the use of violence is legitimate.
Currently, we examine the relationship between perceived unfairness and willingness to participate in various forms of climate protest in a longitudinal survey. We look at how protesters’ experiences of unfairness and their (radical) protest intentions may change over time, and how this is related to trust in authorities and feelings of hope.