12 arrested after climate change activists strip in Commons as MPs debate Brexit

The protesters in the public gallery. Credit: James Heappey/Twitter

Police have arrested 12 people on suspicion of outraging public decency after climate change activists stripped off to stage a protest in the House of Commons while MPs debated Brexit.

A group of semi-naked Extinction Rebellion protesters with messages painted on their bodies stood up in the public gallery overlooking the debate on Monday evening.

Some of the activists dressed only in underwear used superglue in an attempt to stick themselves to the glass which separates the gallery from the chamber.

MPs were seen taking a glance up at the protest and Speaker John Bercow maintained that the debate on the second stage of the Brexit alternatives would proceed despite the protest.

Scotland Yard said officers were sent in an attempt to “negotiate” with the activists, before adding: “12 arrests have been made for outraging public decency.”

Extinction Rebellion, which describes itself as a non-violent direct action and civil disobedience group, said the protest was an attempt to draw politicians’ attentions to the “climate and ecological crisis”.

Speaking on ITV News, one protester said the government needs to take action on climate change. She added: "There's no Brexit on a dead planet. Brexit doesn't actually matter."

Protester Savannah, an English literature student from Ladbroke Grove, explained what took place: “Everyone stripped and two people were elephants and had ‘climate crisis’ written on them.

“We were pointing at them as the elephants in the room of the Brexit debate.”

She added: “Personally I don’t care that much about Brexit.

“I think it’s fine that people do but I think there are bigger things right now.”

Nuala Gathercole-Lam, an Extinction Rebellion member from Haringey in north London, said there were 20 protesters in the public gallery, with 14 stripping and roughly eight sticking themselves to the glass with superglue.

“We’re not yet sure what’s happening with the police but it will probably take a while to get them off,” she said.

“It’s a crazy thing to do but the situation is crazy – there is no Brexit on a dead planet.”

The group of men and women with slogans stood up as Labour MP Peter Kyle was making a speech.

One of the MPs speaking during the protest, Tory Nick Boles, made a joke that his Brexiteer colleagues were “noted naturists”.

“It has long been a thoroughly British trait to be able to ignore pointless nakedness, and I trust the House will be able to return to the issue that we are discussing,” he added.

An Extinction Rebellion spokesperson said the naked protest was an effort “to try and force the issue up the news agenda as far as possible so it breaks through the Brexit Radar”.

“They have gone in there knowing they will be arrested,” he added.

Extinction Rebellion named two of the protesters as 35-year-old Mark Ovland and 24-year-old wildlife biologist Iggy Fox.

In a statement, Ms Fox said: “It’s high time politicians stop beating around the bush and tackle the environmental crisis head on, like they should have done years ago. I won’t stop causing disruption until the government does its duty to protect the people from disaster.”

Several doorkeepers had attempted to remove the protesters, who had painted on their bodies slogans including “climate justice act now” and “eco collapse”.

The activists touted a larger protest to take place on April 15.