Key points from an event by Extinction Rebellion UK:
XR has designated de-escalators who scan the crowd and empathize with the individuals that make up the crowd. XR is nonviolent, but our tactics, even down to the tone we sing songs in, can become aggressive by causing harm to people without us wanting to. We use chants to change the vibe of the action – to animate when the mood is low – but if we chant “Extinction Rebellion!” (which is rather angry) when the police is already tense while arresting people who are locked on, this can actually put the locked on people in a precarious situation. Before we decide to animate the crowd with a certain chant, we should check in with the people in potential risk situations.
XR is nonviolent – and part of nonviolence is communicating our emotions, including anger, in a healthy way (as per Marshall Rosenberg). Anger and hatred are different things, and anger about the feeling of powerlessness must be expressed in a safe way. People may blame others, shouting for instance that “Do you really not care? Your apathy is killing us!” In this case, it’s helpful to ask for consent from the angry rebel to talk further about this, and assist them in sharing their feelings in a channeled way – maybe giving them the podium to share this grief and anger, and using active listening to paraphrase the thoughts.
In other scenarios, when things appear to be tense – in particular in joint actions with other people who do not have an action consensus to be non-violent – it can help to pick up the megaphone or do a mic check and repeat our demands, so that everyone recalls why we are there and can check in with themselves.
Especially when announcing things via mic check, which is audible to bystanders, it helps to send the message in 3 parts: Explaining the stimulus (“Because I witnessed aggression”) + the need that isn’t fulfilled (“and I want us to be safe”) + invite a response (“I invite everyone to sit down”).
This also helps in publicly proclaiming non-violence, and in showing that we are a non-hierarchical movement where we do not force anyone to do something, but invite.
When there is a one-on-one escalation, the tactic with the best success rate in the UK has been to step in, talk to the person who is being attacked/abused/insulted, ask them for permission to help them, and together ignore the perpetrator. This may be something like “Hey, do you want to come with me?”
Here’s some more resources! http://tinyurl.com/embeddingnonviolence