‘We’ve had death threats’: An interview with the SUV-targeting climate activists’ Tyre Extinguishers

Protest group has been ‘disarming’ SUVs in affluent areas by deflating their tyres. They tell The Independent why they chose their controversial tactics

Samuel Webb
Thursday 17 March 2022 20:00 GMT
A climate activist deflates the tyres of a 4x4
A climate activist deflates the tyres of a 4x4 (Tyre Extinguishers)

An activist group dubbing themselves the “Tyre Extinguishers” hit the headlines when they released the air out of the wheels of luxury 4x4s across the UK.

The group say the large vehicles are a disaster for the planet, spewing greenhouse gas emissions causing adverse health impacts from air pollution while making roads more dangerous.

Members “disarmed” SUVs affluent areas of London such as Chelsea, Chiswick, Hampstead, Notting Hill, Belgravia and Clapham, as well as locations outside the capital such as Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Sheffield, Liverpool, and Edinburgh.

They justified their actions as “defending themselves against climate change, air pollution and unsafe drivers”.

Others disagreed, claiming the activists could be endangering drivers who pull away without realising they have a flat tyre.

The Independent interviewed Tyre Extinguishers spokesperson Marion Walker.

Who are the Tyre Extinguishers?

“We have no link to any other organisation, and are not an offshoot of another organisation. We are leaderless, so it is simply people taking action where they are, and using our brand as they see fit.

“In terms of who is taking part, it appears to be, from what we have seen, people of all ages, from all walks of life. That’s what makes it such a threat to SUVs.”

What has the reaction been to the Tyre Extinguishers’ actions?

“We’ve had death threats and threats of violence of course, which shows how attached these people are to their precious ‘Chelsea tractors’, and how important it is to their sense of identity.

“But we’ve actually had a load of members of the public writing in to say they approve. We believe a lot of the public are secretly glad someone is taking action against these urban monstrosities.”

Are the Tyre Extinguishers’ actions justified?

“SUVs and 4x4s are a disaster for our health, our public safety and our climate. Bigger and bigger cars are dominating our towns and cities, and all so a privileged few can flaunt their wealth. Because governments and politicians have failed to protect us from this danger, we must protect ourselves.

“We want to make it impossible to own a huge polluting 4x4 in the world’s urban areas.

“We do this by deflating the tyres of these massive, unnecessary vehicles, causing inconvenience and expense for their owners.”

Do you expect to inspire more people?

“Yes. The action is so easy to do, it can be done anywhere using our instructional video, our leaflet, and some lentils. We expect to see this happen everywhere.”

With Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain’s recent activities, do you think we will see a rise in direct action?

“As politicians lack the courage to deal with the climate crisis, we will see more and more ordinary people take matters into their own hands.

“The only way to stop our action is for politicians to bring in bans on SUVs in urban areas, pollution levies to tax SUVs out of existence, and massive investment in free, comprehensive public transport.

“But until politicians make this a reality, Tyre Extinguishers’ action will continue.”

Is there a risk that “extreme” action like this will alienate some members of the British public and therefore dilute the environmental message?

“This same question is applied to all disruptive social movements and the answer is almost always that it increases support for the cause.

“People hated Extinction Rebellion but it has massively increased climate concern around the world, with some positive policy outcomes. This will be the same. Everyone is now talking about this issue.”

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