Extinction Rebellion arrests top 1,000 as protesters 'pause rebellion'

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Richard Pallot

Climate change protesters who have stopped traffic in a series of peaceful demonstrations across London will “pause” their rebellion in a bid to achieve their political aims, as the arrest total tops 1,000.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) have announced they are switching disruptive tactics for political negotiations as they enter a second week of campaigning to have the Government declare a climate emergency.

The number of people arrested in connection with the protests has hit 1,065 and 53 people have been charged.

Police began arresting the last pocket of activists on Waterloo Bridge on Sunday evening.

The group said it will no longer hold a picnic on the Westway by Edgware Road Underground station, which would have paused traffic on the busy A-road on the last day of the long Easter weekend.

Protesters still remain around Marble Arch, where a designated protest area has been set up.

But activists were cleared from Oxford Circus on Saturday, and from the roads around Parliament Square on Sunday.

Hundreds of officers from other forces have been drafted in to help the Metropolitan Police.

Swedish activist told crowds at Marble Arch 'for too long people in power have got away with not doing anything' Credit: PA

Teenage activist Greta Thunberg addressed crowds at Marble Arch on Sunday evening, ahead of meeting senior British politicians next week.

The 16-year-old Swedish activist told the cheering crowd: "For way too long the politicians and people in power have got away with not doing anything at all to fight the climate crisis and ecological crisis.

"But we will make sure that they will not get away with it any longer."

She continued: "Humanity is now standing at a crossroads. We must now decide which path we want to take.

"How do we want the future living conditions for all living species to be like?

"We have gathered here today, and in many other places throughout London and across the world too, we have gathered today because we have chosen which path we want to take and now we are waiting for the others to follow our example."

Metropolitan Police and Extinction Rebellion demonstrators face each other on Waterloo Bridge Credit: PA

Explaining the change in methods, Farhana Yamin, the group’s political circle co-ordinator, said: “Today [Sunday] marks a transition from week one, which focused on actions that were vision-holding but also caused mass disruption across many dimensions (economic, cultural, emotional, social).

“Week two marks a new phase of rebellion focused on negotiations where the focus will shift to our actual political demands."

She added the group wanted to show itself as a "cohesive long-term global force" and not "flash in the pan."

“Being able to ‘pause’ a rebellion shows that we are organised and a long-term political force to be reckoned with," she said.

Police dismantle the skate ramp erected by Extinction Rebellion demonstrators on Waterloo Bridge. Credit: PA

Protesters have stopped traffic across the capital over the past week, including in Oxford Circus, Marble Arch and Waterloo Bridge, where a temporary garden was set up.

Police managed to successfully clear demonstrators at Oxford Circus, which was reopened to traffic on Saturday.

Officers carried out arrests on Waterloo Bridge and removed campaigners who had attached themselves to a truck.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said that while he shared activists' passion about tackling climate change, the protests were " counter-productive" and had "taken a real toll on our city", with more 9,000 police officers responding to the demonstrations.

He said in a statement: "I remain in close contact with the Met Commissioner, and agree that Londoners have suffered too much disruption and that the policing operation has been extremely challenging for our over-stretched and under-resourced police.

"I'm extremely concerned about the impact the protests are having on our ability to tackle issues like violent crime if they continue any longer. It simply isn't right to put Londoners' safety at risk like this.

"My message to all protesters today is clear: you must now let London return to business as usual."

Extinction Rebellion demonstrators hug across a police cordon on Waterloo Bridge Credit: PA

The group hopes to continue their protests at Old Palace Yard in Westminster, through negotiation with the Mayor of London and Metropolitan Police.

Members would commit to not disrupting other areas in exchange for Sadiq Khan speeding up the implementation of the Declaration of Climate and Ecological Emergency and considering setting up a London Citizens’ Assembly.

They will also set up a political taskforce to take forward public negotiations with the Government, warning that they are prepared to scale up action depending on how much progress is made.

Neither the Met nor the Mayor's Office would say whether they were considering the proposals.

Speaking on Sunday, TV presenter Chris Packham urged Prime Minister Theresa May and Environment Secretary Michael Gove to "come and say hello" and demonstrate that "we can begin to trust you again" with protecting the environment.

Speaking from the top of a bus stop on Waterloo Bridge, he said: "Our Government has been on holiday but tomorrow they come back full of Easter eggs.

"And before they press that blasted Brexit button again, we must ask them to think about something altogether more pressing: saving our planet."

Chris Packham makes a speech on top of a bus stop during the Extinction Rebellion demonstration on Waterloo Bridge. Credit: PA

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said the policing operation had been unlike any she had experienced in almost four decades of policing, and called for the “miserable” disruption to end.

She said: "I've been a police officer for 36 years and I have never known a single operation to in which over 700 people have been arrested.

"It shows we are determined and we will carry on."

Ms Dick said she was grateful for the police officers from other forces drafted in to help the Met Police deal with the protesters.

Officers from the City of London Police, Kent, Sussex, Essex, Hampshire and Greater Manchester have been sent to London.