Earth Day: XR activists 'carefully' smash 19 windows at HSBC's Canary Wharf offices

22 April 2021, 09:12 | Updated: 30 April 2021, 11:14

By James Gooderson

By Joe Cook

Extinction Rebellion say their activists have "carefully" smashed multiple windows at HSBC's Canary Wharf headquarters using "hammers and chisels", with more protests expected later to mark Earth Day.

The nine women wore patches with the words "better broken windows than broken promises" in reference to the Suffragettes acts of civil disobedience, the climate change group said.

XR said the action was in response to the bank's "financing of climate breakdown", claiming HSBC's "current climate plan still allows the bank to finance coal power".

The windows are thought to cost around £30,000 each, so could cost upwards of £570,000 to replace.

The Metropolitan Police said nine women have been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and remain in police custody.

Read more: Campaigners tell Government to crack down on toxic air after girl's death

A spokesperson for the force said: "Police were called at approximately 07:10hrs on Thursday, 22 April to reports of a group of protestors causing criminal damage to a building in Canada Square, E14.

"Enquiries are ongoing."

Read more: Climate change: UK to speed up emissions reduction target ahead of major summit

Extinction Rebellion activists used hammers and chisels to "carefully" break the glass.
Extinction Rebellion activists used hammers and chisels to "carefully" break the glass. Picture: Joao Daniel Pereira
The group sat down outside HSBC&squot;s Canary Wharf headquarters and "waited to be arrested".
The group sat down outside HSBC's Canary Wharf headquarters and "waited to be arrested". Picture: Joao Daniel Pereira

One of the activists, 62-year-old grandmother Susan Reid, said she took part in the window smashing as "we owe it to our children and grandchildren to act in whatever way we can".

She added: "I would like to enjoy my retirement with my grandchildren, but instead I have to spend it fighting for their future because banks like HSBC are happy to keep making money from fossil fuels no matter the risk."

The action outside HSBC falls on Earth Day, with more protests expected.
The action outside HSBC falls on Earth Day, with more protests expected. Picture: Joao Daniel Pereira
Police made nine arrests at the protest.
Police made nine arrests at the protest. Picture: Joao Daniel Pereira

Meanwhile, protester Blyth Brentnall says she risks a prison term for the action, due to her previous protests with XR and political party Burning Pink, who co-organised the window smashing at HSBC on Thursday.

“As a 29-year-old who might go to prison for up to two years for this, I am risking losing my job, my accommodation and relationships with family and friends," Ms Brentnall said.

"It’s a terrifying prospect. But I’m doing this because it’s even more terrifying that the commercial banks are knowingly investing billions in industries that will deprive future generations of an inhabitable planet.”

Officers confiscated the hammers and chisels used to smash the windows.
Officers confiscated the hammers and chisels used to smash the windows. Picture: Gareth Morris
The Met Police said inquiries are ongoing into the incident.
The Met Police said inquiries are ongoing into the incident. Picture: Gareth Morris

A spokesperson for HSBC said: "Constructive engagement on climate change is critical as we work to deliver the Paris Agreement goals.

"We welcome meaningful dialogue on our climate strategy, however, we cannot condone vandalism or actions that put people and property at risk.

"We have an ambition to be net zero by 2030 and to bring our financed emissions to net zero by 2050.

"We have also committed to set out short and medium term transition targets, and to phase out the financing of coal-fired power and thermal coal mining by 2040 globally. We remain committed to supporting our customers in their transition to net zero."

The protest comes on Earth Day, with world leaders set to meet at a virtual summit convened by US President Joe Biden, who is expected to pledge to at least halve US greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 on 2005 levels.

Boris Johnson will tell the meeting that 2021 must be the year countries "get serious" about stopping climate change.

The two-day US-led summit will also hear from leaders of major economies including China, Japan, Russia, Canada, India and Australia, who will be watched closely to see what ambition they will bring to the table.