Thousands block roads in Extinction Rebellion protests across London
Climate group occupies major landmarks in campaign that could last several days
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Mon 15 Apr 2019 18.59 BSTFirst published on Mon 15 Apr 2019 09.58 BST
Shares 12k Play Video 1:35 Extinction Rebellion activists cause disruption across London in climate change protests – video
Thousands of people have blocked well-known landmarks including Waterloo Bridge in central London
Parents and their children joined scientists, teachers, long-term environmentalists and other protesters both young and old to occupy major junctions and demand urgent action over the escalating ecological crisis.
The protests are part of a global campaign organised by the British climate group Extinction Rebellion
The group is calling on the UK government to reduce carbon emissions
By mid-afternoon five London landmarks – Waterloo Bridge, Marble Arch, Parliament Square, Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus – had been blocked by thousands of protesters. Advertisement
Organisers said they hoped to hold the first four of those venues round the clock over the coming days with a temporary camp established at Marble Arch, causing widespread disruption in the capital.
However, as darkness fell on Waterloo Bridge on Monday night, police moved in and began to arrest protesters still blocking the crossing. A spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion
The arrests came after the Metropolitan police issued an order under section 14 of the Public Order Act, which allows conditions to be imposed on “public processions” and “public assemblies”. The order restricted the protesters to the area around Marble Arch. A police officer on the bridge said that the Met could impose limits on assembly if they felt there was a serious risk of disruption or to public order. “Obviously, sitting down on Waterloo Bridge is a serious disruption to the community,” he said. Sign up to the Green Light email to get the planet’s most important stories
Police mingled more or less freely with the crowd and around several gazebos, potted plants and trees, and a mobile stage that was hosting a choir. “They are taking people incredibly slowly,” said one protest organiser. “It could take all night.”
At about 10pm police became anxious when several dozen more people arrived to reinforce the numbers on the bridge. By midnight there had been around 50 arrests linked to the climate protests.
Earlier Roger Hallam
“Suddenly what Extinction Rebellion has done is actually say: ‘we are doing this.’ And the state is so weak through austerity that they can’t stop us.”
The campaign cites the civil rights and suffragette movements as inspiration and is backed by hundreds of scientists and academics, including the former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams
Williams, who part in Monday’s protest, said at a meditation the night before that humans had declared war on nature: “We are here tonight to declare that we do not wish to be at war. We wish to make peace with ourselves by making peace with our neighbour Earth and with our God,” he said. Action or Extinction? Environmental activists take to the streets
The group wrote to the prime minister, Theresa May, on Monday outlining their demands and asking for talks. In the letter they warned they would escalate their disruptive actions over the coming days and weeks unless the government acts.
“Make no mistake, people are already dying,” the letter said. “In the majority world, indigenous communities are now on the brink of extinction. This crisis is only going to get worse … prime minister, you cannot ignore this crisis any longer. We must act now.”
At Waterloo Bridge before the arrests, protesters blocked the roads and turned the crossing into an impromptu garden bridge
At Oxford Circus thousands of protesters danced to live music at the normally busy junction. A lifesized model of a boat was parked in the middle of the crossing with the slogan Tell the Truth emblazoned on the side. At nearby Piccadilly Circus the youth section of Extinction Rebellion
Organisers hope the rebellion will last for several days and say its success depends on the number of people willing to occupy the sites in the days and nights ahead. [image: Traffic queues behind protesters in a road near Marble Arch]
Laura Sorensen, a retired teacher who travelled from Somerset to join the protests, was one of thousands who gathered on Waterloo Bridge in the sunshine.
She said: “I am so worried about what’s happening to the planet. We are on a knife-edge now and I felt strongly that I needed to get out and show myself, rather than just talk about it in the pub.”
Sorensen said she had not previously been active in the environment movement but that as a child she had been given a love of nature by her parents. “I see this disaster unfolding all around me … it is terrifying and the government have done nothing despite all the warnings, so we have to act now.”
Trey Taylor, 19, was with two friends in Piccadilly Circus. He said he felt compelled to act when he realised the scale of the emergency.
“We are facing environmental breakdown and nothing remotely proportionate is being done about it … when you look at the facts this is happening now and the government response is utterly woeful.”
In Parliament Square about 2,000 people gathered under a sea of flags, placards and banners. From an octagonal stage erected on the green for speakers, Jamie Kelsey Fry, the contributing editor for New Internationalist magazine, said: “This is not a political movement, this is a movement of humanity. We are all backgrounds, all ages, all races, bound together in one wish, one dream, which is that we will have a good, decent, loving future, for generations to come.” [image: Demonstrators gather in Parliament Square]
Five protesters were arrested for suspected criminal damage when they staged a demonstration at Shell’s headquarters. A glass revolving door was shattered and hundreds of passersby watched as two activists climbed above the entrance, writing “Shell knew” and “Shell knows” on the building. Advertisement
At Marble Arch hundreds of people sat in the sun, listening to bands playing from an open-sided truck.