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Thousands block roads in Extinction Rebellion protests across London | Environment

Thousands of people have blocked well-known landmarks and a bridge in central London, bringing widespread disruption to the capital in a “climate rebellion” that organisers say could last several days.

Parents and young children joined older people, scientists, teachers and long-term environmentalists 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, with demonstrations planned in 80 cities across 33 countries in the coming days.

The group is calling on the UK government to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025 and establish a citizens’ assembly to devise an emergency plan of action to tackle climate breakdown and biodiversity loss.

Protesters on Waterloo Bridge



Protesters on Waterloo Bridge. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

By mid-afternoon five London landmarks – Waterloo Bridge, Marble Arch, Parliament Square, Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus – had been blocked by thousands of protesters.

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.

Roger Hallam, one of the movement’s leaders, said nothing like this had been seen on the streets of London for decades. “What’s amazing about this is for 30 years you have just had that closing up of public space – ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that, you’ve got to finish then’.

Extinction Rebellion are an international protest group that uses non-violent civil disobedience to campaign on environmental issues. Demonstration have included blocking bridges to traffic in London and a semi-naked protest inside the House of Commons

The group say that climate breakdown threatens all life on Earth, and so they are rebelling against politicians who “have failed us”, to provoke radical change that will stave off a climate emergency.


Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Anadolu

“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.

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, protesters blocked the roads and turned the crossing into an impromptu garden bridge, with people bringing trees, flowers and setting up a miniature skate park and stage.

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 held a sit-down protest, writing messages in chalk on the pavement.

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.

Traffic queues behind protesters in a road near Marble Arch



Traffic queues behind protesters in a road near Marble Arch. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

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.”

Demonstrators gather in Parliament Square



Parliament Square was another landmark occupied on Monday. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

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.

At Marble Arch hundreds of people sat in the sun, listening to bands playing from an open-sided truck.

Damien Gayle
(@damiengayle)

Simon Bramwell, who was glued to a revolving door at @Shell, said: “Shell has known about the impact the fossil fuel industry is having on our planet for decades. They’ve done nothing but deceive, lie and undermine any efforts at transition to renewables.” #extinctionrebellion pic.twitter.com/efAb6QO7C0


April 15, 2019

Police walked among protesters, many of whom had come with their children, while groups of activists at the periphery blocked the various roads feeding into what is usually one of London’s busiest junctions.

Alex Armitage, an NHS doctor, had been drafted in as a spokesperson for the Marble Arch group. He said he hoped the police could be brought on side. “Eventually if this is going to work, if we are going to have the massive change in the economy that we need to protect ourselves from climate change, we are going to need the police to be unwilling or unable to restore order, and then the government has no option but to negotiate,” he said. “It all seems really grandiose – but so is the scale of the problem facing us.”

A number of major roads in the capital were brought to a standstill with roads gridlocked in surrounding streets. The AA said the disruption had been significant.

Police on Waterloo Bridge said there were no plans to move protesters on for the time being. One officer said: “It’s been very peaceful so far. Everyone has been really pleasant. The only grief we’ve had is from passing motorists shouting at them to ‘get a job’ – that’s about as exciting as it’s got.”

The events in London were the biggest demonstrations but there were smaller protests in other cities around the world.




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