Extinction Rebellion: 52 arrests on day one of fortnight of protests

23 August 2021, 12:53 | Updated: 24 August 2021, 09:48

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A total of 52 arrests have been made on the first day of Extinction Rebellion's planned two weeks of protests, according to the Metropolitan Police.

The Met tweeted that the arrests were for a "variety of offences".

They also confirmed that officers would continue to be present throughout the night.

Extinction Rebellion protesters brought parts of central London to a standstill as the group's two weeks of climate demonstrations began.

The group kicked off its fifth mass protest in Trafalgar Square as activists demanded the government stop investment in fossil fuels.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in streets around Leicester Square and Covent Garden, blockading busy routes with vans and setting up a giant pink table as part of their climate protest.

Near Trafalgar Square, 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.

Extinction Rebellion protesters block streets in central London
Extinction Rebellion protesters block streets in central London. Picture: Gareth Morris

Protesters also blocked the junction of Long Acre and Upper St Martin's Lane with the large pink structure with "Come to the Table" written on it. Nearby protesters had chained themselves to a van parked sideways across the street.

The Metropolitan Police said on Monday evening that protestors continued to block roads around Long Acre junction in Westminster.

They said officers are engaging with protesters to understand their plans to remain there.

Read more: Nine arrested after Extinction Rebellion protesters target Guildhall entrance

Watch: XR co-founder: Westminster 'doesn't seem capable' of tackling climate change

They said: "We are concerned their actions are disrupting the community."

Rose - from Worcestershire - was among around six activists laid under a van near Covent Garden.

She said she was protesting "in solidarity with all the people who have lost their lives, lost their homes, and lost their livelihoods".

Meanwhile, Ben travelled from Somerset to protest in London and was filmed with his arm in a concrete tube under a van to slow police down.

He said the IPCC report showed we have a short amount of time left to make the necessary changes.

"People have been marching for decades and what we need to do is make a clear call to government and to society that we need urgent action now."

Protestors have started putting up tents near Covent Garden
Protestors have started putting up tents near Covent Garden. Picture: LBC

Maddy Hayley Thomas, who joined her first XR protest, 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 33-year-old said she had been spurred to join her first march by the recent IPCC report which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described as "Code Red for humanity".

The UN's report found that humans are having an "unequivocal" impact on the climate, with governments under increasing pressure to rapidly scale up action on global warming.

The latest global review from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the world will reach or exceed temperature rises of 1.5C over the next two decades.

Boris Johnson said the landmark climate change report made for "sobering reading", and it was clear the next 10 years are going to be vital in protecting the Earth's future.

Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, kick-started the two weeks of protests in London with a speech expressing solidarity with nations that are disproportionately affected by climate change.

A visible heavy police presence surrounded the protest, named the "Impossible Rebellion", which is expected to attempt to disrupt London to "target the root cause of the climate and ecological crisis" in the coming days.

Further demonstrations are due to take place in both north and south London and the protesters in central London said they would aim to stay in place for as long as possible.

Thousands of people are expected to attend the protests. They say the plan to continue protesting until the government agrees to stop all new fossil fuel investment immediately.

Read more: Extinction Rebellion co-founder: Two weeks of protest not limited to the City

Read more: Met has spent £50 million on policing Extinction Rebellion protests since 2019

Demonstrators hold up their signs during a protest by members of Extinction Rebellion at Trafalgar Square
Demonstrators hold up their signs during a protest by members of Extinction Rebellion at Trafalgar Square. Picture: Alamy

Campaigners held placards aloft with messages including "Code red, where's the action" while four people were dressed as the sea in a warning over rising sea levels.

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 and Dame Emma Thompson.

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 said 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.

This story is being updated...