Extinction Rebellion abseiler brings Cambridge council meeting to a halt

A council meeting had to be abandoned after it descended into chaos when a climate change protester abseiled from the chamber balcony.

Extinction Rebellion protesters staged what they have described as an "all-night occupation of Cambridge City Council" after "40 years of inaction" on fossil fuels.

The council was due to debate and agree its budget proposals for the year on Thursday night (February 13).

But the meeting was brought to a standstill when one woman suspended herself from the chamber balcony while other activists sang, danced and climbed on to tables.

Police watch as a protester abseils from the council chamber balcony Credit: Local Democracy Reporting Service / Ben Hatton

Officials tried to plead with the protesters to be quiet - and come down from the balcony - so they could continue their meetings. Police were also called.

However the decision was later made to end the meeting.

Council leader Lewis Herbert said the authority respected the right of people to protest peacefully and "agree with them that the climate emergency demands urgent action".

But he criticised the group for halting the meeting - which would have included plans to cut carbon emissions.

"If Extinction Rebellion want to mobilise Cambridge, they need to think what will best persuade local residents to act and support radical change, and consider that carefully in deciding their actions over the next week.”

Lewis Herbert, Leader, Cambridge City Council
A protester prepares to spend the night in the council chamber Credit: Local Democracy Reporting Service / Ben Hatton

The protesters went on to spend the night in the council building - eventually leaving at 6.30am on Friday, February 14.

The council's attempts to communicate with the group proved difficult after they declared they had no leader - and the headphone-wearing abseiler appeared not to be able to hear anyone.

But activist Tilly Porter - a student at Cambridge University - explained the group's demands to the city's local democracy reporter, who attended the meeting.

"We have three demands in total. One is that the university divests and cuts all ties with the fossil fuel industry. "The second is that the city council holds a people's assembly on how to address the climate emergency. "And the third is that the county council works with the other necessary organisations to create a just transition to a public transport system that is accessible and available to all who need it."

Tilly Porter, Extinction Rebellion Cambridge

Councillors expressed dismay that the actions of the protesters - who arrived carrying sleeping bags - had prevented important decisions being made.

Geri Bird, Mayor of Cambridge, was chairing the meeting.

"I was quite upset really because I gave them the opportunity to have their say and they disrupted the whole meeting.

Geri Bird, Mayor of Cambridge

Extinction Rebellion Cambridge is set to stage roadblocks - starting Sunday February 16 - if its demands of the city council, county council and university have not been agreed to.

Video credit: Local Democracy Reporting Service / Ben Hatton

Warning to drivers as Extinction Rebellion Cambridge prepares week-long roadblock.