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Extinction Rebellion kicks off bank holiday with 'regional rebellions'
28 August 2020, 15:05
Extinction Rebellion (XR) has begun its bank holiday weekend of protesting with a series of "regional rebellions" in several cities across the UK.
Gathering in London, Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff and Leeds on Friday, the environmental group demonstrated on its first of four planned days of marches to demand more be done to combat climate change.
The group plans to target airports and set up roadblocks over the weekend to encourage action against the aviation sector, banks, the fossil fuel industry and petrol stations.
It comes ahead of large-scale disruption set to begin with blocks outside parliament from 1 September.
In Bristol, the Clifton Suspension Bridge was closed from midnight on Thursday due to the planned protests, with police saying they could not risk "any protest activity impacting on the bridge", citing public safety as a reason.
Acting Chief Inspector Rob Cheeseman said: "We know from experience that Extinction Rebellion have engaged in disruptive tactics which have not been disclosed in advance to our liaison officers and we have to take all necessary steps to mitigate the impact this action could have on the safety of the public using the bridge."
Meanwhile, in Birmingham, dozens of protesters gathered outside Snow Hill train station on Friday, chanting: "Shame on you," while a banner saying "We want to live" was draped over Cardiff castle.
Protesters also stood outside Manchester Piccadilly station, holding a banner in protest against the HS2 rail line.
Other demonstrations this week are expected to include more roadblocks, marches, sit-ins, bike rides and picnics across the country, all the while following the group's ethos: "Non-violent direct action."
Dr Chris Newman a GP and founder of Doctors for XR, said he was aware of the health risks posed by protests in a pandemic, and assured he would be pushing "very hard" for all participants to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
He added: "Everyone in XR that I've spoken to is extremely mindful of the risks and we're all concerned about health risks. That's why we're here, because climate change is a health issue as much as anything."
Clare Farrell, a co-founder of the XR movement, said the COVID-19 pandemic served as proof that people can change "very, very rapidly" when there is a threat to human life, and said she hoped the same respect could be applied to climate change, too.
She said: "If we took climate change as seriously as this pandemic then we are surely capable of making massive changes very, very rapidly."