SUV tire deflators claim to be doing ‘civil disobedience, not degradation’

They roam the streets of the capital, in the most upscale neighborhoods, to unearth SUVs, deflate a tire and claim their action of civil disobedience through the pasting of their leaflet. “They” are small groups of activists who claim to be part of the international movement Tire Extinguishers, launched in the UK. Their goal ? Denounce the preponderant role of the richest in climate change, and in particular their propensity to flaunt their wealth without worrying about the repercussions on the environment. How ? By deflating the tires of SUVs, with pebbles or lentils and leaflets explaining their gesture.

20 minutes followed a group of activists in Paris, on a cold weekend evening in December, and was able to discuss with them to understand their action, their demands and their concerns. “Our reasons are mainly ecological. An SUV consumes 20% more than a car of the same year and of normal size. And in a city like Paris, where public transport works very well and the streets are well maintained, there is no reason to have this kind of vehicle, explains Lumette. It is also a more dangerous vehicle, wider, which from a security point of view with pedestrians or cyclists, is more at risk. That evening, there were three of them, accustomed to meeting each week for an operation of this type. “We are clearly attacking a symbol of vanity. Buying this kind of vehicle is dangerous for the planet and dangerous for people. »

Lumette, Léon and Lucie, muffled up in dark coats, but without gloves or balaclavas, juggle between confabulation and banter so as not to arouse the suspicions of any passers-by around when they are joined near a metro station in the west of the capital city. That evening, they have about twenty self-adhesive leaflets, to be affixed to the windows of the targeted SUVs. “We warn the owners because they don’t necessarily see right away that one of their tires is deflated. It’s civil disobedience, not degradation or the desire to hurt anyone,” explains Lucie.

“We change quarters each time for safety. Once you’ve been there, it’s good to be forgotten, at least for a while. We choose the wealthiest neighborhoods because that’s where we find the newest, most beautiful, most gleaming SUVs, ”smiles Léon, before continuing. “So how was Roger’s wedding?” Well, that was great. Frankly, it’s still strange to get married in December, isn’t it? Yes, well I found that there were still a lot of weddings this year. A very disconcerting banter at first sight. But it’s one of the tips of the trio when passers-by get too close. “A little diversion based on improv,” Lucie slips in. It’s not always easy to be original or natural. »

“Several groups are active in Paris but we don’t get in touch”

The group was formed a few months ago. “Sometimes we have a few people added, but ideally three or four people is good. The trio met on other militant actions. “It’s hard to trust people you don’t know,” Léon slips. Several groups are active in Paris but we don’t get in touch. The Tire Extinguishers site allows them to be independent: they find some advice there, leaflets to print, and then the Telegraph group is also a way to tell their story and learn about that of others. “We know what is happening in London, New York, Berlin, and it feels good to know that we are not alone and what is also happening in other cities,” says Lumette. , equipped with a bag of lenses to slide in once the tire cap has been unscrewed. “Normally we do it with pebbles but it’s hard to find the right size because the idea is that they press the valve and deflate the tire in an hour or two”.

The leaflet that accompanies the SUV tire deflators in Paris. – Laure Gamaury / 20 Minutes

Are there any special rules? Experiences that left a bitter taste? The three activists have no really striking memories, except perhaps a “weird evening”, according to Lumette, who at that time kept watch. “There was one evening, one night when everything was weird. We hesitated for a moment, there were two passers-by a little further watching us, in short we finally gave up and we did well because in fact one of the two was the owner of the SUV we had targeted . Then, Lucie, who was sticking up the leaflet, had barely moved away from the SUV when two people started reading the leaflet because we hadn’t been vigilant enough about the surveillance. It’s not bad to trust your instincts in this kind of operation, even if it’s true that it makes you a little paranoid sometimes on the spot. »

Lumette barely finished her confession when a car alarm sounded. Perplexed Léon and Lucie join her, then the three of them hastily walk away, not understanding if it was when they stuck the leaflet on the window that the alarm went off or if it was a coincidence. “What is an alarm for? No one knows which one sounds and if someone trips and touches it, it sets off the alarm. It’s just a deterrent,” concludes Lucie. An effective way because the trio then meanders through the neighborhood, crossing several streets without daring to stop.

“We are not in an objective of raising awareness”

Once this fear has passed, “the alarm is a first”, notes the trio, the quest for SUVs continues. “Around the parks and in the service roads, it’s simpler, there are fewer people and maybe a little less light”, shares Léon. “We are not aiming to raise awareness, but we want to bring this subject into the public debate and make it as difficult as possible for these vehicles to circulate in Paris”, abounds Lumette.

What about CCTV? “We pay attention to it but it is not what guides us. And then, we don’t wear the same clothes as in real life. It’s like a disguise. From there to comparing themselves to Batman and Fantômette, there is only one step, which they will not cross. “Finally, we do not know how stuck we are. It seems that the approach is unique and therefore recognizable. But for now, the trio are more worried about running into an SUV owner than the authorities. “As long as there is no danger to the life of others, there is no risk of prosecution. On the other hand, if a rich owner confronts us in the middle of the street, we’re going to have a bad time! Moreover, the group of militants does not venture too long. “A mission is less than an hour and between 20 and 30 leaflets stuck on deflated SUVs”, notes Lumette.

“We don’t refrain from visiting Boulogne or Neuilly”

“It’s a militant action among others, but we see the concrete effects, still shares Lumette. One morning in Paris, I once saw an SUV owner re-inflate his tire with a small manual compressor, and who had a leaflet stuck to his window. It is a small personal satisfaction, even if it was not our group which was at the origin of it. »

“The idea is that it’s only an inconvenience in the morning when the owner picks up his car, no more,” insists Léon, while municipal police officers draw up a ticket against an electric car plugged into a terminal. But it is already time to end the evening operation. “We stuck twelve of them, count Lucie. Considering the cold, it’s not bad. “But the trio could well agree a winter break. Before continuing his actions of civil disobedience in the spring? “For the moment, we have always stayed in inner Paris, but we do not refrain from visiting Boulogne or Neuilly”, smiles Lumette, before fainting at the bend of a metro station. These vigilantes in the shadows definitely wear their capes quite a bit.

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