We came across an odd little item this week on Facebook that informed us that Wellesley Square would be the site of a “social distance meditation swarm” on Sat., May 30, at 10:30am. Apparently a group called Extinction Rebellion has invited one and all to join them in Wellesley and “practice meditative and highly conscious social distancing as we walk the crosswalks and occupy street corners with masks and signs.”
Extinction Rebellion says that their occupation activity is meant to point out similarities between the coronavirus crisis and climate crisis, and that they will not be passing out flyers or engaging motorists or pedestrians in conversation.
We tried to contact the group via Facebook messenger and email, but got no response.
Although Extinction Rebellion directs swarm participants to meet at 10:15am at the Congregational Church at 2 Central St., head pastor Rev. Sarah Butter had no knowledge that a group was planning to use the church as a jumping-off point.
Phyllis Theermann, part of the Sustainable Wellesley leadership team told us that she knows of the group, but hadn’t heard they were planning an event in Wellesley.
According to their website, Extinction Rebellion is a “strictly non-violent movement, whose overall ambition is an international rebellion that helps humanity to turn quickly onto a course that is compatible with life on earth, and to build resilient communities in the face of ecological and societal crisis.”
Look for the folks wearing black and green and holding signs in the Square on Saturday at 10:30am. Just don’t try to engage them in conversation. They won’t be there to talk to such as you.
What about needing a permit?
Generally, demonstrations that stay on the sidewalk and do not block traffic do not require a permit. Given that the group plans to “walk the crosswalks”, however, we wonder if that could be construed as an attempt to block traffic. Blocking traffic is kind of a thing with Extinction Rebellion.
It’s likely that the environmental group’s strategy of naming coronavirus as part of their stated demonstration goal (pointing out similarities between the coronavirus crisis and climate crisis) is extra insurance for getting around a permit. The First Amendment states that demonstrators do not need to secure a permit when their demonstration is a rapid response to unforeseeable and recent events.