280 arrests as Extinction Rebellion 'shuts down' London

7 October 2019, 08:10

By Megan White

Extinction Rebellion activists have begun a fortnight of environmental action, blockading key sites in London and sparking clashes with police.

The Metropolitan Police said that by 9.30pm, officers had made 280 arrests in relation to 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.

There was also a sit-in at the famous meat market at Smithfield in protest at the industry's carbon footprint.

Protesters occupied Lambeth Bridge, with some attempting to build a wooden hut while others set up a makeshift campsite, despite officers' attempts to remove them.

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Westminster Bridge was also blocked by another group.

Crowds gathered around Westminster on Monday morning
Crowds gathered around Westminster on Monday morning. Picture: PA

Parliament Square was empty of traffic except for police vans and bicycles, while helicopters circled overhead.

Another group of protesters near Trafalgar Square parked a hearse in the middle of the road, with the driver using a bicycle lock to chain himself to the steering wheel.

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

"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."

Protesters blocked the road near Trafalgar Square with a hearse
Protesters blocked the road near Trafalgar Square with a hearse. Picture: PA

Oxford University student Fergus Green, from St Albans, was in the growing crowd of drummers, stewards and flag-waving protesters planning to "shut down Westminster".

He 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."

Earlier on Monday, protesters blockaded a road outside the Ministry of Defence by chaining themselves inside a car.

Officers were seen removing protesters from the blue vehicle, which had been parked sideways across the street.

Among those arrested was 81-year-old Sarah Lasenby, a Quaker and retired social worker from Oxford, who was part of efforts to block Victoria Embankment outside the Ministry of Defence.

She said: "The whole thing is so urgent that it is imperative the Government should take serious actions and put pressure on other states and global powers to radically reduce the use of fossil fuels, even if this means we need to reduce our comfort at home and so much flying."

Activists were also planning to stage a sit-in at City Airport as part of their “international rebellion.”

Police were seen guarding Westminster Bridge, which is another of the sites threatened by activists.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Lawrence Taylor told LBC: "There is going to be significant disruption.

“It means ... that we are unable to be doing some of the policing activity that we should be doing."

Activists are believed to be targeting 12 sites around Parliament on the first day of action.

Popular areas of the capital including Trafalgar Square, Lambeth and Westminster Bridges and the Houses of Parliament are expected to be targeted, in addition to a number of government departments.

Organisers are expecting up to 30,000 people to be involved in the protests over the next fortnight, making them five times bigger than the protests that caused major disruption to London in April.

Ten people were pre-emptively arrested on Saturday at the former Lambeth County Court on suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance ahead of the protests.

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