Green activists shut down Westminster as part of ‘international rebellion’

Protesters have blocked roads around Westminster and set up camps with tents and banners as they call for urgent action on the climate and wildlife crises.

Celebrities joined the Extinction Rebellion protests as groups of demonstrators shut down roads around Parliament and Whitehall in London, in the start of what is expected two weeks of action in the capital.

By 3pm, the Metropolitan Police said 148 people had been arrested in connection with the protests.

But activists succeeded in bringing the area to a standstill with roadblocks on Westminster and Lambeth Bridges, Victoria Street, Whitehall, Horse Guards Road and the Mall.

Parliament Square was empty of traffic except for police vans, bicycles and rickshaws carrying tourists, while costumed protesters walked up Whitehall, and a hearse was used to block the road at Trafalgar Square.

Extinction Rebellion protests
Police attempt to move protesters outside Westminster Abbey during an Extinction Rebellion (XR) protest in Westminster, London (Victoria Jones/PA)

An impromptu cricket game was held outside the Supreme Court and the streets rang with drumming, whistles and chanting, while dozens of tents were erected on the roads and yoga classes took place on Westminster Bridge.

Extinction Rebellion says the protests could be as much as five times bigger than those held in April, which brought major disruption to London and saw more than 1,100 arrests.

It is part of an "international rebellion" around the world, with action taking place in cities including Berlin, Madrid, Amsterdam and New York.

Extinction Rebellion protests
Juliet Stevenson joined the Extinction Rebellion protest in Trafalgar Square, London (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Hundreds of environmental activists took part in protests through Dublin as part the action, with a mock funeral procession though the city and a large pink boat unveiled outside the heart of the Irish parliament in Leinster House.

In the UK, Extinction Rebellion is calling on the Government to declare a climate and ecological emergency, to act immediately to halt wildlife loss and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2025.

They also want to see the Government create and be led by the decisions of a
Citizens' Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

Actor Sir Mark Rylance joined the roadblock in the Mall, while actress Juliet Stevenson, comedian and author Ruby Wax and model Daisy Lowe also took part in the demonstrations.

Sir Mark told Extinction Rebellion protesters at St James' Park: "People have been saying to me, it doesn't make a difference having a celebrity joining the protests.

"But I want people to know climate change protesters aren't hippies. I am confident these protests are going to lead to a solid change."

Stevenson said she was delighted to see so much engagement from young people and that her own son was at the protests and working for Extinction Rebellion.

Speaking to PA, the Truly Madly Deeply star said: "It's a very wonderful action today. We can't any longer allow governments to do this so we have to make it clear that there is no more time.

"There's a long tradition in this country of people saying governments are not
acting, we have to make them realise how urgent this is."

Extinction Rebellion protester Caroline Hartnell, 69, from London, said activists were going to be surrounding all the Government ministries.

She said: "We are going to be putting pressure on them – what they are going to do mend the climate emergency, because we are running out of time.

"I have seven grandchildren and the youngest is three. I feel passionately for
them (and worry) there is not going to be a world for them to live in."

Extinction Rebellion protests
An Extinction Rebellion boat sailed the river Thames, during protests in Westminster (Victoria Jones/PA)

Oxford University student Fergus Green, from St Albans, said: "People are coming from all over the country. I'm here to force the Government to take action on climate change.

I'm a student, I should be at uni – my term has started. But I'm here to take action. People are missing work and school to be here."

Church leaders took part in the occupation of Lambeth Bridge to create a "faith bridge", with services and prayer vigils planned.

Rev Jon Swales, 41, Mission Priest at the Church of England's Lighthouse Church in Leeds and Associate Faculty at St Hild Theological Centre, said: "The science is clear. Unless we radically change the way we live in the world we will face the full force of climate catastrophe."

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