XR: Nearly 500 arrested during 'unfair, unreasonable and unlawful' protests

3 September 2021, 23:40 | Updated: 3 September 2021, 23:46

Extinction Rebellion have held two weeks of protests across London.
Extinction Rebellion have held two weeks of protests across London. Picture: Alamy

By Elizabeth Haigh

Nearly 500 people have been arrested during Extinction Rebellion's two weeks of action in London, which has required 2,000 officers to police.

The protests, or "Impossible Rebellion", have targeted central London as well as the city's financial hub.

Protesters have blocked roads, occupied junctions and thrown red paint over buildings they claim house companies that contribute to the climate crisis. These included banks such as Standard Chartered and the London Stock Exchange.

Activists from sister organisation Animal Rebellion also vandalised the Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace in a protest against hunting.

Read more: Sadiq Khan concerned Extinction Rebellion is 'driving people away' from cause

A group of activists also stayed overnight in the Science Museum, with some gluing themselves to objects inside.

The protests come soon after the UN released a climate report which PM Boris Johnson described as a "code red for humanity". The report found that humans are having an "unequivocal" effect on the climate and that the world could see temperatures rises in excess of 1.5C over the next two decades.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Matt Twist said: "Nearly two weeks ago, Extinction Rebellion started fresh action in London. Like everyone else, they have the right to protest and assemble together.

"But this right must be balanced with the rights of others. Those wanting to go about their lawful business unimpeded and without disruption.

Read more: Sadiq Khan: London flash floods shows climate change danger is 'closer to home'

"Whatever the cause, activists do not have the right to cause unreasonable and serious disruption to London’s communities.

"In the past two weeks, we’ve seen activists overstep this. They’ve blocked traffic on two of London’s busiest bridges, defaced iconic landmarks and disrupted critical road junctions. Commuters’ journeys have been delayed, businesses had deliveries cancelled and the owners of landmarks have faced costly repairs.

"This action is unfair, unreasonable and unlawful."

Read more: XR protesters glue themselves to railings inside Science Museum and 'refuse to leave'

DAC Twist added that activists have frustrated police officers by using complex structures and gluing or locking themselves on to objects.

The Metropolitan Police have confirmed that 133 activists who were locked or glued on to something have had to be removed by specialist removal teams.

About 480 arrests have also been made, 300 of which were made during the first week of protests.

Read more: 'Code red for humanity': Landmark UN climate report 'sobering', PM says

It has taken around 2,000 officers to police the protests, some of which occurred over the Met's busiest weekend, the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said that he is concerned Extinction Rebellion are "inadvertently driving people away" from the climate cause.

Speaking to LBC, he encouraged activists to "think carefully about how you are protesting, are you supporting the cause, are you encouraging more people to understand why we've got to take action on the climate emergency."

Efforts to police the protests have been complicated by other protests going ahead simultaneously, such as those by anti-vaxxers.

DAC Twist said: "The impact of XR’s protracted action on London communities should not be underestimated.

"Every time several officers are needed to arrest a single activist, these are officers diverted from our number one priority, bearing down on violence."

"Of course, we empathise with those passionate about addressing climate change. But, police must remain impartial and uphold the law, without fear or favour."

Protests are expected to continue this weekend.