Extinction Rebellion blocks London bridges on second day of mass protest

Police talk to protestors taking part in a demonstration on Lambeth Bridge in central London
Police talk to protestors taking part in a demonstration on Lambeth Bridge in central London. Credit: PA

Extinction Rebellion climate activists staged sit-down protests in central London for a second day, with dozens arrested after they blocked two bridges to demand an end to the fossil fuel economy.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at Speakers’ Corner at Hyde Park on Sunday morning before marching into the city centre and “occupying” both Lambeth and Vauxhall bridges, major traffic arteries across the Thames where they prevented vehicles from crossing.

They allowed ambulances and fire engines to pass, with organisers parting the crowd by shouting “blue light”.

The group also marched on the Home Office's headquarters on Sunday, as its campaign against the fossil fuel industry entered a second day.

After several hours, police cleared first Lambeth and then Vauxhall Bridge, saying 38 arrests were made in the process.

Officers told protesters there was evidence they were causing “serious disruption” to the public, warning them to leave or face arrest.

A protester dressed as the Grim Reaper passes police on the blocked Lambeth Bridge Credit: PA

Police physically removed the last of the activists, a number of whom were taken away in police vans.

The Metropolitan Police tweeted on Sunday evening: “Both demonstrations within the Vauxhall Area have now concluded and the roads have reopened.

“As a result of today’s policing operation we have made 38 arrests.”

Doctors and nurses from a small group of medical workers who refused to leave Lambeth Bridge were among those arrested, Extinction Rebellion tweeted.

The Met said it had imposed conditions under section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 on Extinction Rebellion to clear areas around Vauxhall Bridge.

It comes as Essex Police branded oil terminal blockade protests in Essex as "dangerous."

XR said the youth protesters were sending a message to the government "and their friends in the oil and gas industry: it’s time to end fossil fuels and we’re not leaving the streets until you do."

On Friday morning, protesters installed a 22 x 3-metre banner reading 'End Fossil Fuels Now' across Tower Bridge, prompting the span to be closed temporarily.

The disruption of traffic on London’s bridges is nothing compared to climate change, an Extinction Rebellion protester has said.

Adam, in his 60s, from York, who had joined Sunday's protest, said his activism would take a different form if he thought it would work.

“I’m very sorry”, he said. “If you give me a better way of forcing this onto the agenda of the government I will listen, I really will.

“But right now I know that writing letters or nice marches has not worked.

Protesters staged a sit-in on the busy Lambeth Bridge. Credit: PA

“This may seem disruptive, but it is chicken feed in comparison to climate change.”

Meanwhile, days of “exceptionally dangerous” fuel protests are putting activists and officers at “unacceptable” risk of harm as the number of arrests are set to top 350, Essex Police have claimed.

Activists from Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion had already been blocking access to oil terminals in Essex in recent days ahead of the latest round of central London protests.

They are demanding that the government stops new oil and gas projects.

There have been 338 arrests since the protests began on April 1.

It comes after more than 20 protesters arrived at Exolum Storage in Grays on Sunday morning.

Assistant Chief Constable Glen Pavelin said: “We cannot stand by while criminal acts are being committed, and lives are being put at risk, in the name of protest.

“We are not anti-protest. Our job is to preserve life and catch criminals, and that’s what we’re going to do.

“Today’s protest is exceptionally dangerous due to where the protesters have located themselves within the site.

“Our officers have been diligent in ensuring that all protesters know the risks involved, and we’ve been working hard to minimise the dangers this morning.

“Put simply: we don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

Activists from Just Stop Oil take part in a blockade at the Kingsbury Oil Terminal, Warwickshire, last Sunday. Credit: PA

The force has said that policing protests in Thurrock had cost Essex Police “in excess of £1 million”.

Mr Pavelin said of the protesters whose “acts of criminality on site are not only illegal, but they are continuing to put themselves and our officers at real risk of harm and that is unacceptable.”

These “protests continue to impact the people of Essex and beyond,” he said.

He added: “We’ve been lucky to have extra support from specialist officers from across the country, to support some of our officers continuing with their day jobs.”

Officers from the Protester Removal Team work to free a Just Stop Oil activist from beneath the ground at the Titan Truck Park in Essex. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

The force is working with organisations including Thurrock Council, the East of England Ambulance Service, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service plus the local fuel companies to try over the protests while also having to deal with local crime.

Warwickshire Police said that a further 29 arrests have been made this weekend in connection with ongoing protests at Kingsbury Oil Terminal.

Those in custody have been arrested on suspicion of offences including criminal damage, conspiracy to cause criminal damage and conspiracy to commit public nuisance in what Assistant Chief Constable Ben Smith described as “another busy weekend” for the force.

Mr Smith, who said there would be a heightened police presence at the site over the coming days, added: “This weekend’s protest activity has been contained to the Piccadilly Way area and has caused little disruption to the wider community, or to the operations of the oil terminal.

“While we will always recognise and respect the public’s right to peaceful protest, we will take action against anyone who breaks the law or causes significant impact on the local community.”

Police work to free a Just Stop Oil activist at a blockade in Grays, Essex, in early April. Credit: PA

He thanked the public for their ongoing patience and said the force is working to minimise disruption to the local community and the road networks.

XR's latest round of action came as an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report issued a stark warning that the world must act 'now or never' to stop irreversible climate change.

The IPPC found greenhouse gas emission levels were at their highest levels in history between 2010 and 2019.

While the rate of growth in emissions has reduced, the report warned: "Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5°C is beyond reach."

Since 2010, the increase in solar and wind energy has helped slow the growth in emissions but the IPCC said more must be sustain the planet in the long term.

The IPCC is calling for a reduction in all emissions by 2030 to help achieve the 1.5°C (2.7°F) temperature limit.