Extinction Rebellion launches wave of protests set to disrupt London

Extinction Rebellion launches two-week wave of protests set to disrupt London two years after bringing parts of the capital to a standstill

  • London’s police warn protests will distract officers from dealing with crime while minimising disruption 
  • Extinction Rebellion said it will target capital’s financial district in protests which are due to start tomorrow 
  • Group accuses financial firms of helping fuel climate change and brought central London to standstill in 2019

Extinction Rebellion has launched a two-week wave of protests which is set to disrupt London two years after bringing parts of the capital to standstill in similar demonstrations.    

London’s police warned the protests will distract officers from dealing with crime while they focus on minimising disruption.

Extinction Rebellion said it will target the capital’s financial district in protests which are due to start tomorrow.

The group accuses financial firms of helping to fuel climate change and it brought much of central London to a standstill during 11 days of action in 2019.

Those protests brought its cause to the fore and also provoked criticism from some politicians who said police had been too tolerant.

Ahead of next week’s protests, London’s police force said it would have to divert resources from other activities and some investigations might slow as a result.

London’s police warned the protests will distract officers from dealing with crime while they focus on minimising disruption. Pictured: Smoke bombs are let off at protests today at the entrance to Guildhall 

Police officers form a line in front of the entrance to the Guildhall, London, where protesters have climbed onto a ledge above the entrance during an Extinction Rebellion protest

A man points in the face of a police officer as members of Extinction Rebellion stage a protest outside the Guildhall, London

Extinction Rebellion climate activists drop a banner from the Guildhall in London today 

People hold a banner in front of the entrance to the Guildhall, London, where protesters have climbed onto a ledge above the entrance during an Extinction Rebellion protest today 

Police officers detain an Extinction Rebellion climate activist during a protest at the Guildhall earlier today 

A man climbs a ladder as members of Extinction Rebellion stage a protest outside the Guildhall today 

A woman sprays red paint onto the outside of the Guildhall, London, during a protest by members of Extinction Rebellion

‘Every police officer committed to a large demonstration is a police officer abstracted away from their local borough and community,’ said Matt Twist, deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Extinction Rebellion’s planned ‘Impossible Rebellion’ protests – which come ahead of talks on climate change involving world leaders in Scotland in November – will include site occupations and marches through London’s financial district.

The group is demanding an emergency response to climate change from governments and a mass move away from polluting industries to avert the worst scenarios outlined by scientists.

Stephen Fry has voiced support for the Extinction Rebellion protests in a video shared on Twitter in which the actor and comedian praised the group for attempting to ‘make politicians really recalibrate, realign, revolutionise politics’ through their ‘mucky’ and ‘disruptive’ demonstrations. 

In the two-minute video shared by Extinction Rebellion, Mr Fry, 61, said: ‘I know Extinction Rebellion, XR, are mucky and they make a fuss, they’re loud, they’re disruptive, they sometimes throw paint and other such things and they block traffic.

‘But what else is going to make politicians really recalibrate, realign, revolutionise politics so that it faces the horrors of climate change and all the damage we’re doing to our planet?

‘It’s a very complex and very difficult situation, but unless we recognise that everything has to change then nothing will change, it seems to me.

Police officers detain an Extinction Rebellion climate activist during a protest at the Guildhall earlier today 

Police officers stand in formation as Extinction Rebellion climate activists protest at the Guildhall

A woman sprays bright red spray paint on to the entrance of Guildhall in London earlier today 

Game of Thrones actor Jerome Flynn takes part in an Extinction Rebellion protest at Guildhall today 

A protester from Extinction Rebellion is moved by the police outside the Guildhall during a protest at the opening ceremony of the organisation’s two-week protest

Police form a ring around the Guildhall during a protest at the opening ceremony of Extinction Rebellion’s ‘Two Week Impossible Rebellion’

‘I know that you can point the finger of hypocrisy at everybody who owns an object and drives a car, but we’re all going to have to re-think the way we live our lives and the way we dispose of all the things we buy and the way society works.

‘It’s much better if we think about it together and without enmity, but understanding a common purpose for the common good – is that so much to ask?

‘XR, Extinction Rebellion, seem to be the only people who are sensibly, even if angrily, even if energetically, trying to move society and the world towards this.

‘It’s going to be a heck of a fight, but unless we get together, it’s a fight we’ll lose.’

The Metropolitan Police force said it is engaging with Extinction Rebellion leaders on Friday, two days before the protests are due to begin in Trafalgar Square in central London.

Extinction Rebellion protesters hold banners which read, ‘Co-liberation freedom together,’ and, ‘Coliberation = togetherness,’ outside Guildhall earlier today 

Police move in to clear people protecting the ladder propped against the side of Guildhall earlier today 

Police form a ring around the Guildhall during a protest at the opening ceremony of Extinction Rebellion’s ‘Two Week Impossible Rebellion’ today

They added that three similar demonstrations by the group in 2019 and 2020 cost more than £50 million to police in total, and that millions more will be spent in the response to this year’s demonstration. 

Commander Rachel Williams said: ‘Three large previous events from Extinction Rebellion have cost the Metropolitan Police service in excess of £50 million.

‘I’m in no doubt this year’s policing operation will run into the millions and will result in many police officers sacrificing their time off to help mitigate any disruption and bring order and safety to the streets of London.’ 

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said the Met made an ‘unprecedented’ 3,762 arrests during the previous three demonstrations, bringing 1,938 prosecutions of which 73 per cent resulted in convictions. 

Commissioner Twist recognised this but said it does not ‘preclude officers from taking action to prevent disruption on London’s road network where that disruption is wilful and unreasonable’.

He told the briefing on Friday: ‘The disruption we witnessed in 2019 and 2020 is unacceptable, and we share London’s outrage on the impact that this activism had on their businesses and their communities.’

He added that police response will be ‘proportionate’ to the disruption, adding that ‘every police officer committed to a large demonstration in central London is a police officer abstracted away from their local community’.

He sympathised with activists’ aims but urged them to ‘consider the consequences’ of their actions on the people of London.

‘Like many, I understand what drives Extinction Rebellion, particularly in light of some of the major climate events we are seeing with increasing regularity including here in London,’ he said.

‘We get it. However, I must urge Extinction Rebellion to consider the consequences of their actions and of the direct and indirect effect on the people and communities of London itself.’ 

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