Extinction Rebellion ‘expects up to 50,000’ climate activists as it begins four-days of protest

Extinction Rebellion demonstrators take part in a protest outside Houses of Parliament. Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Extinction Rebellion has promised to avoid disrupting the London Marathon as it prepares for “40,000 to 50,000” activists to protest in the capital while the race is on.

The climate activists began a four-day protest that they have called "The Big One" outside Parliament Square on Friday.

The group - which said it will not be using direct and disruptive action - has been in talks with the marathon race director to ensure minimal disruption.

A spokesperson for the group said: “We’re expecting around 40,000-50,000 people to be outside Parliament over the weekend.”

On Friday, groups of protesters chanted and danced outside government departments in Westminster on Friday as they called for more action to tackle the climate crisis.

Protesters gathered outside the Department for Transport, some holding “Stop HS2” placards.

Outside the Department of Health, a banner read “Time for a climate public health campaign”.

The group announced earlier this year it was stepping back from direct action in a bid to “prioritise attendance over arrest and relationships over roadblocks”.

Extinction Rebellion rally in Westminster. Credit: PA
A dog joins Extinction Rebellion demonstrators in Westminster. Credit: PA
Extinction Rebellion is staging a four-day protest outside Parliament Square on Friday. Credit: PA

Protesters held signs calling for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to scrap plans to develop Rosebank oil and gas field that lies west of Shetland.

Climate activists have promised protests this weekend will not disrupt the London Marathon which, takes place on Sunday.

Supporters of the protest group Just Stop Oil attended Friday’s demonstration attempting to recruit participants for slow marches, which it plans to carry out next week.

London Marathon director Hugh Brasher previously said his talks with Extinction Rebellion had prompted the agreement that “they will be uniquely asking all their participants to help guard the London Marathon”.

He said: “I trust Extinction Rebellion, they have been very clear of what they are doing and why. I hope Just Stop Oil and the other organisations listen to what we are saying.”

An Extinction Rebellion rally on the first day of the protests Credit: Jordan Pettitt/PA
More than 30,000 people have said they will attend the protests, branded 'The Big One'. Credit: PA
Extinction Rebellion has begun several days of protest in central London as the group attempts to abandon disruptive tactics. Credit: PA

The environmental group’s spokeswoman said that while its stewards will protect the runners from the protest, “the whole thing has slightly been taken out of context”.

“We’ve been in close collaboration with the London Marathon since last year so that our protest can co-exist with the marathon,” she said.

“We met them a couple of days ago and said that we were going to protect people from the protest, and I think what the media has taken that to mean is that we’re going to protect the race from other groups protesting.

“Really what we meant by it was that we have stewards who will be helping to keep the area safe.”

She added that all the organisations signed up to take part in the protest have assured Extinction Rebellion they will not disrupt the marathon.

Just Stop Oil confirmed it had also been in talks with the marathon director, and activist Anna Holland told GB News: “I’m just going to say now: we’re not going to disrupt the marathon.

“We do also encourage anyone who’s coming to the marathon to also join us to march for the climate because it’s so important.”

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The Metropolitan Police said they were prepared for disruption.

A police spokesperson said: “We are in contact with the Extinction Rebellion organisers in the run-up to their event, and will continue to engage with them throughout the period, in an effort to avoid serious disruption and delays to London’s communities and the other events taking place in London.

“Alongside a significant policing response we will be using specialist officers to respond to any protesters who lock or glue themselves to street furniture or purpose built structures. Where protest crosses the line into criminality, we will respond quickly and remove and arrest activists as appropriate and return things to normal as soon as possible. I urge people not to take matters into their own hands.”