Extinction Rebellion has kicked off its fifth mass protest in Trafalgar Square as activists demanded the Government stop investment in fossil fuels.
Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of the activist group, opened the “Impossible Rebellion” with a speech expressing solidarity with nations that are disproportionately affected by climate change.
A visible heavy police presence surrounded the protest, which is expected to attempt to disrupt London to “target the root cause of the climate and ecological crisis” in the coming days.
Demonstrations are scheduled in central locations including St James’ Park, Piccadilly Circus – similar to those carried out in 2019 – but more are due to take place in both north and south London.
The group says thousands are expected to attend protests and disruption will continue until the Government agrees to stop all new fossil fuel investment immediately.
As protests got under way on Monday in Trafalgar Square with a marching band, Cockspur Road was blocked with hundreds of protesters in the road next to Nelson’s Column, calling on the Government to divest from fossil fuel companies.
Campaigners held placards with messages including “Code red, where’s the action” while four people were dressed as the sea in a warning over rising sea levels.
Later, protesters blocked the junction of Long Acre and Upper St Martin’s Lane with a large pink structure with “Come to the Table” written on it.
Demonstrators climbed onto the table and are preparing to stay there.
Charlie Waterhouse, of the Extinction Rebellion design team, said: “We are inviting everyone in Britain to come to the table and have the kind of grown-up conversations government, industry and the media are refusing.
“When those in positions of power are incapable, it is the responsibility of the people to step up. We are in the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced and Extinction Rebellion are calling crisis talks.”
A first-time climate protester said Extinction Rebellion’s controversial methods are “necessary behaviour”.
Maddy Hayley Thomas, 33, said: “What is extreme is the fact that the Government, huge corporations, all of our system is allowing the devastation to our planet, to the global south.”
The Metropolitan Police said a “significant” operation would be put in place to manage the protests over the busy bank holiday weekend, but acknowledged the activists’ “important cause”.
The movement has gained support from celebrities such as comedian and author Stephen Fry and actor Jerome Flynn.
In a video shared on Twitter, Fry praised the group for attempting to “make politicians really recalibrate, realign, revolutionise politics” through their “mucky” and “disruptive” demonstrations.
Flynn attended a protest on Sunday evening in which three activists scaled the entrance of the Guildhall building in central London.
A crowd of about 200 people gathered as the trio sprayed red spray paint over the walls of the building and unfurled a banner reading “co-liberation freedom together”.
The Game Of Thrones actor told the PA news agency it was “more urgent than ever” for people to take a stand together.
“We’ve gotten used to certain systems that are life destructive, we created them, we’ve become addicted to them and we know the world is burning as a result,” he said.
The Metropolitan Police said a total of nine people had been arrested on Sunday in connection with the activities.
Extinction Rebellion vowed to return to the streets earlier this month following a string of victories in court which saw activists successfully appeal convictions for previous stunts.
Their latest protest comes after a major science review by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirmed that human activity such as burning fossil fuels was unequivocally driving the climate crisis, with impacts such as deadly heatwaves, floods and storms already being felt.
In November the UK will host the international Cop26 summit where the pressure will be on world leaders to increase action to urgently cut greenhouse gases and avoid even more dangerous global warming.