A group claiming to represent Extinction Rebellion in the East Midlands has come under fire for a controversial tweet which states: "Corona is the cure. Humans are the virus".
The message, accompanied by pictures of posters carrying the same sentiment, has been widely condemned by other Extinction Rebellion (XR) groups, including the main XR UK and XR Midlands organisers - who, until today, followed the @XR_east account on social media.
A spokeswoman for XR UK told ITV Central the tweet "in no way represents" the group's position, and said she "absolutely, wholeheartedly condemned" the message.
"It looks like the account was dormant for a long period of time - and it's never tweeted anything like this before," she said.
"We're trying to make contact with them but they're not communicating. We don't know for sure who it is, but it screams of being a fake account."
XR uses a "decentralised" structure, meaning local groups are free to operate by themselves under the banner of Extinction Rebellion.
It means there are hundreds of groups across the country, ranging from small to large.
The XR UK spokeswoman added: "We have seen the Extinction Rebellion logo used on similar fascist propaganda in the past, so as far as I'm concerned it's a group trying to set us up.
"We absolutely, wholeheartedly condemn what they've said."
Suzanne Savage, who represents the Extinction Rebellion Midlands branch, also told ITV News Central she had "absolutely no idea" who was behind the "fake" account.
She said she and others had reported it to Twitter and had taken legal advice.
"Unfortunately, it is quite easy for anyone to set up an account on Twitter and claim to represent another organisation. We call on Twitter to remove this account urgently," she said.
"The views expressed in the tweets by the fake account are contrary to Extinction Rebellion’s principles and values, and we entirely disassociate ourselves from anything posted there."
The account has not responded to any messages for more than 10 hours, but did address a few criticisms made soon after posting the original tweet.
They denied several accusations of "eco-fascism", and in one response said: "The point of activism is to shock people, out of their complacency. Like art, it is meant to provide a different point of view to that we are accustomed."
"We are pointing out that from the perspective of the Earth, humans behave like a disease. The idea is not to be."
ITV Central has tried to contact the group for official comment.
It comes after Extinction Rebellion launched its official response to the Covid-19 pandemic, entitled 'Alone Together'.
The climate activists said they wanted to see an "evolution" of the movement, encouraging people to cooperate and care for one another on a global scale.