Climate change protest arrests top 1,000 as last roadblock finally cleared

More than 1,000 people have been arrested during a week of climate change protests in London as police cleared the roadblocks responsible for disruption in the capital.

Waterloo Bridge was reopened overnight having been occupied by Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists since last Monday, Scotland Yard said.

Demonstration sites at Oxford Street and Parliament Square were also cleared on Sunday, while a sanctioned protest continues at Marble Arch, according to police.

Organisers said a further protest will take place at the British Museum on Monday.

The Metropolitan Police said 1,065 people had been arrested in connection with the demonstrations by 10am on Monday, while 53 of those had been charged.

Olympic gold medallist Etienne Stott was one of the activists arrested as police moved to clear Waterloo Bridge on Sunday evening.

The London 2012 canoe slalom champion was carried from the bridge by four officers at around 8.30pm as he shouted about the “ecological crisis”.

Members of XR are suggesting temporarily ending disruptive tactics to focus on political negotiations as they enter the eighth day of campaigning.

Extinction Rebellion protests
Extinction Rebellion protests

A spokesman said there would be no escalation of activity on Easter Monday, but warned that the disruption could get “much worse” if politicians are not open to their negotiation requests.

The group will no longer hold a picnic on the Westway by Edgware Road Underground station, which would have stopped traffic on the busy A-road on the last day of the long Easter weekend.

Instead, at Marble Arch, the only police-sanctioned protest space, activists will meet to “vision what’s going to happen in the coming week”, an Extinction Rebellion member said, as she introduced Swedish activist Greta Thunberg to the stage.

The 16-year-old was met with cheers as she walked on stage and told a crowd of hundreds that humanity was at a crossroads.

Earlier on Sunday, in what the group later said was an internal memo intended to garner feedback from members, Farhana Yamin, the group’s political circle co-ordinator, said they would shift tactics to “focus on political demands”.

She added: “Being able to ‘pause’ a rebellion shows that we are organised and a long-term political force to be reckoned with.”

The proposal suggests negotiating with London Mayor Sadiq Khan and the Metropolitan Police to agree that they be allowed to continue their protests at one site.

Members would commit to not disrupting other areas in exchange for Mr Khan speeding up the implementation of the Declaration of Climate and Ecological Emergency, and considering setting up a London Citizens’ Assembly.

They will also set up a political taskforce to take forward public negotiations with the Government, warning that they are prepared to scale up action depending on how much progress is made.

Neither the Met nor the Mayor’s Office would say whether they were considering the proposals.

The Chinese now produce more CO2 than the EU and US combined – and more than 60 per cent of their power comes from coal. Here, for heaven’s sake, is the real opportunity for protest 👇

— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) April 22, 2019

Boris Johnson, Mr Khan’s predecessor as mayor, wrote in the Daily Telegraph that he was “not in favour of paralysing public transport in the greatest city on earth” and said the UK was a “world leader in reducing the greenhouse gases that are associated with climate change”.

He wrote: “I am not saying for one second that the climate change activists are wrong in their concerns for the planet – and of course there is much more that can be done.

“But the UK is by no means the prime culprit, and may I respectfully suggest to the Extinction Rebellion crew that next Earth Day they look at China, where CO2 output has not been falling, but rising vertiginously.

“Surely this is the time for the protesters to take their pink boat to Tiananmen Square, and lecture them in the way they have been lecturing us.”