Activists have deflated the tires of 2,000 SUVs across the UK to ‘protect the environment’

A new movement is accelerating in Bristol and across the UK that specifically penalizes SUV owners – but who are these climate vigilantes?

The Tire Extinguishers is a leaderless movement that operates with a common goal: to ban SUVs or 4x4s in an urban area because of their impact on the environment. To spread their message, protesters targeted cities and deflated SUV tires in “affluent” neighborhoods.

They allege four reasons why SUVs should be made illegal, claiming they are dangerous, cause air pollution, useless and claiming they are a climate disaster. Having formed less than a month ago, their beliefs are already spreading across Europe, with incidents of copycat reported in Germany and Switzerland.

Also see: Tire fire extinguishers target Bristol SUVs overnight

Marion Walker, spokeswoman for the Tire Extinguishers, said the band chose to take direct action “because nothing else worked”, despite public frustration. Talk to BristolLive on the movement’s goals, she said: “Campaigning politely for our right to a safe future, for clean air, for safe streets, hasn’t worked. Suddenly everyone is listening now – our action will continue until it was impossible to own an SUV in the urban areas of the world.”

Last week it was announced that members of the group had deflated the tires of more than 2,000 vehicles across the UK in just four weeks of action, with Bristol among the towns targeted. A Telegraph reporter recently told his readers not to buy SUVs as they would be targeted by activists, considered a success by movement.

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One of the most popular vehicle types in the UK

One of the best-selling cars in the UK in 2022 so far is a Kia Sportage, according to Auto Express, which is an SUV. Six out of ten cars on this list are classified as SUVs.

Read more: Eco-warriors have dropped tires on 2,000 vehicles across Britain

In 2021, New Scientist reported over 280 million SUVs on the road, up from less than 50 million in 2010. The average SUV uses 20% more energy per kilometer than an average-sized car . This increase in SUVs in 2020 has led to an increase in oil consumption which has negated the effect of electric cars, says vehicle distributor Petropoulos.

So why are these particular vehicles still so popular if they are detrimental to climate degradation? Some attribute their growing popularity to versatility and cargo space. Marion said the movement claims there is more to it. “Partly the advertising and car industry lied to them and convinced them they needed it. But it’s also pure selfishness – their right to pollute outweighs the right others to breathe clean air in the present, or to have a future.”

Nationally, more than a dozen sites have been targeted across the UK, including Bristol. The group claimed it specifically targeted affluent areas, sharing information on how to identify an SUV and deflate tires on their website.

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“We are asking activists to target affluent areas, where SUV use is most likely to be purely for the purpose of displaying wealth,” she added. They leave a flyer on the windshield of the vehicle explaining what happened and why.

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Is it illegal to deflate tires?

The legality of dropping someone’s tires is a bit of a gray area in terms of UK law. Deliberately deflating a car’s tires without permission is not specifically listed as a violation of the law, but it could fall under several other generic terms in the Road Traffic Act 1988.

“Climate change is the real criminal damage. Our actions are a proportionate response to the climate crisis. The government and politicians have failed to ban the use of massive, unnecessary, climate-destroying, polluting and killing people vehicles. pedestrians on our streets. . So we are taking matters into our own hands.”

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Marion said many police forces across the UK seemed confused as to whether their actions broke the law. “Sussex Police launched ‘Operation Extinguisher’ to try and arrest us but found nothing but grainy CCTV footage,” she explained.

“We don’t expect anyone to get caught – the only way to get caught is for the police to post an officer in front of every SUV in the country, 24 hours a day. We can strike anywhere.

“Other police forces seem confused as to whether what we’re doing is actually illegal or not.” Members of the group usually operate at night, but Marion said she heard of some activists acting while it was still light outside.

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Bristol’s impending Clean Air Zone

Bristol City Council is set to introduce a Clean Air Zone in September in a bid to reduce air pollution from city traffic. It is designed so that drivers of older, more polluting vehicles – around 75,000 a day – are tasked with entering a small area of ​​the city centre, which the council says will affect around three in ten drivers.

Marion said the move was “not good enough” despite the council’s increased climate strategy since 2018. “We need to see bans on all private cars in urban areas and massive investment in public transport. nitrogen oxides in people’s faces, they would rightly be arrested and put in jail, but if you own a huge polluting car, it’s legal to spray pollution in people’s faces.

While the end goal is to ban SUVs in urban areas, Marion said the movement also wants to see pollution taxes gone to tax SUVs and invest heavily in free and comprehensive public transport. “Until the politicians make it a reality, the action of Tire Extinguishers will continue.”

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