While most will pass peacefully, there is the potential for mass disruption and an underlying threat of violence, warns Dragonfly

With COP26 approaching (31 October-12 November), Filippo Cutrera, Europe analyst at security intelligence firm Dragonfly, believes while most environmental protests will pass peacefully, there is the potential for mass disruption and an underlying threat of violence.

“Planned demonstrations from environmental groups across the UK ahead of and during the COP26 summit in Glasgow are likely to attract up to tens of thousands of people. While most protests will probably pass off peacefully, smaller decentralised actions, as well as potential involvement of anarchist or other anti-globalisation groups, heighten the risk of violence.

“Activists seem intent on causing non-violent disruption to the summit and to the movement of people in Glasgow more broadly. Protestors are likely to conduct sit-ins and deploy barricades or vehicles to block major roads, with the M8 and M74 appearing particularly vulnerable. Other likely tactics include glueing themselves to walls or forming human barriers by chaining one another together.

The ‘Global Day of Action’ on 6 November is likely to attract up to several tens of thousands nationwide. The umbrella COP26 Coalition is the main promoter of the event and consists of around 100 groups, including Extinction Rebellion (XR), Fridays for Future (FFF) and Greenpeace, as well as trade unions.

Non-violent civil disobedience is at the core of the tactics of almost all environmental groups taking part in the COP26 campaign. However, there is a risk the largest events will attract participation from often-violent anarchist, anti-globalisation and anti-vaccination groups.

This is a sentiment backed by Dragonfly’s online analysis, explains Cutrera.

“While the event itself will be the campaign’s focus, targeted actions are also likely against sites affiliated with businesses in the financial, energy, construction and the media sectors. Defund Climate Chaos has already called for actions against specific banks and financial institutions across the UK.

“However, the authorities plan to deploy around 10,000 police officers daily in Glasgow during the event, and the experience of Scottish police in handling protests peacefully, makes widespread cases of unrest unlikely.”