Extinction Rebellion protestors closed off sections of central London as the group launched two weeks of actions targeting the government’s failure to sufficiently address the threat of climate change. The Metropolitan Police said 135 arrests had been made by early afternoon.
The group has faced more active policing than during actions in April, with protestors today cleared from Lambeth Bridge hours after the protestors occupied the space— a marked change in approach to the spring action in which campaigners were allowed to occupy sites across central London for almost two weeks.
The police also used stop-and-search powers on members of the group and conducted a pre-emptive raid on a warehouse storing equipment over the weekend.
Ruth Ben-Tovim, an Extinction Rebellion spokesperson from Totnes who was on Lambeth Bridge this morning, told DeSmog: “Some people were trying to get through the cordon, so the police were pushing firmly back from that, and groups of officers did sweeps of arrests. But it was all very peaceful and non-violent this morning.”
Protestors have reportedly been instructed to refuse bail when arrested in the hope that police holding cells will become full, restricting capacity for further arrests.
A number of sites were occupied this morning, including Westminster Bridge, Trafalgar Square and Whitehall. Protestors set up temporary structures and staged sit-ins to secure the roads.
On Trafalgar Square roundabout, two activists locked themselves to a funeral hearse, blocking traffic, where they were joined by several hundred other campaigners.
In St James’s Park, another group of protestors highlighted the implications of climate change on existing global inequalities, and set up a temporary camp.
Sophie Cowen, a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion, said the movement had taken to the streets to demand government departments explain their response to the climate crisis.
“The government did not act on Parliament’s declaration of a climate and environmental emergency. We’re asking government departments to tell us what their plans are. So far we haven’t seen any action.”
“This is not just a problem for the UK, this is directly affecting communities in the Global South, and we need to recognise the responsibility we have as the birthplace of the industrial revolution.”
Responding to criticism of the disruption the protests will cause, she said, “We really apologise to Londoners for the disruption but this is two weeks, compared with the risk of mass starvation and the end of society as we know it.”
The group plans to target government departments on Tuesday and London’s financial district next week.
Other actions are taking place around the world, including in Australia, New Zealand, Austria, the Netherlands and Spain.
Like our work? Support DeSmog by becoming a patron today!
Image: Richard Collett-White