Climate Activists Immobilized 900 SUVs Around the World in One Night

The Tyre Extinguishers say they won't stop deflating SUVs' tires until large vehicles are routed or taxed out of big cities.

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Traffic moves across the Brooklyn Bridge in 2018.
Traffic moves across the Brooklyn Bridge in 2018.
Photo: Drew Angerer (Getty Images)

The Tyre Extinguishers claim to have struck again this week, deflating the tires of almost 900 SUVs around the world — including 50 in Brooklyn — to frustrate owners of “high-carbon” vehicles, the activist group announced Wednesday.

According to the group, this was its biggest coordinated action yet, affecting utility vehicles in eight countries, predominantly in neighborhoods around London, this past Monday and Tuesday. New York was the only city outside Europe included — more specifically DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights — but SUVs in San Francisco and Pittsburgh have been targeted before, Insider says.

Tyre Extinguishers aims to “make it impossible to own a huge polluting 4x4 in the world’s urban areas” by deflating tires, with the intent of causing “inconvenience and expense” for owners, according to the group’s website. This is typically done by inserting something small (the Extinguishers seem to prefer lentils) into the tire’s valve cap, which depresses the pin and causes a slow leak when it’s partially screwed back on.

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The act of deflating without damaging a tire in the process might seem to fall in a legal gray area, but the reality is many states have laws on the books that discourage tampering with a car, even in a way that doesn’t render it unrepairable.

Earlier this year one driver in New Zealand reported that they lost control of their SUV after its tires had been deflated by an activist, and they chose to drive it anyway. The Tyre Extinguishers typically leave leaflets on windshields to inform owners of what they’ve done, and in this particular case, the driver acknowledged the letter but decided to drive home anyway after “finding no obvious damage,” per 1News.

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The activist group intends to keep up the pressure in the coming weeks. Just three months ago, it announced its largest overnight effort, tagging 600 SUVs from Canada to the Czech Republic. That held the record, supposedly until yesterday. Even if the Tyre Extinguishers were to miraculously convince swaths of people to consider hatchbacks and sedans instead of SUVs, automakers would have to first start making them again.