Two arrests after Extinction Rebellion members block Clifton Suspension Bridge ahead of Bank Holiday demonstrations

The pair from XR Youth in Bristol were allegedly blocking the bridge with their arms locked together. Credit: XR Bristol

Two young Extinction Rebellion protesters have been arrested after Bristol's Clifton Suspension Bridge was blocked ahead of planned protests over the Bank Holiday weekend.

The women from XR Youth were reportedly found lying on the bridge with their arms locked together at around 11pm on Thursday 28 August.

Charlie Siret, a 19-year-old student at the University of Bristol, and 18-year-old Fern, who did not give her surname, are now in custody. They were arrested on suspicion of wilful obstruction of the highway and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance.

It comes after Avon and Somerset Police announced the bridge would be shut to cars, pedestrians and cyclists ahead of the demonstrations.

The group said members formed the block on the bridge "in advance of the police's planned shutdown, to express the seriousness of our purpose".

Extinction Rebellion also said there were plans to block the bridge overnight into Friday morning (28 August).

On the pre-emptive closure of the iconic landmark, acting Chief Inspector of the force Rob Cheeseman said: "We cannot risk any protest activity impacting on the bridge which is currently used by around 10,000 to 12,000 vehicles every day, in addition to pedestrians and cyclists."

A banner has now been put up across the bridge.
  • LATEST: Extinction Rebellion protesters erect a banner at the entrance to Clifton Suspension Bridge on first day of Bank Holiday demonstrations.

Their actions mark the start of a four-day demonstration in the city, which has been widely publicised by the group.

Speaking before the arrests were made, fellow XR Youth member, Poppy Silk, said: "During the pandemic, the Government has proved that they are unable to keep us safe in the face of emergency.

"Now is the time for adults to listen to and join the youth in demanding the Government address the climate and ecological crisis in a way that also addresses deepening inequality in our society.

"We have signed petitions, striked from school for two years and still they refuse to care about our futures.

"As Greta Thunberg says, when it comes to action the world's leaders are still in a state of denial."

Bristol has been home to several climate change demonstrations.

Elsewhere in Bristol members of the group will occupy part of the Harbourside and block Prince Street Bridge.

On Saturday (29 August) they have also planned a march to Bristol Airport in opposition to the proposed expansion.

It comes after bosses confirmed they will appeal North Somerset Council's decision to reject their plans.

A visual feature of the action will be a giant "elephant in the room", which Extinction Rebellion says represents "the issues that those in power need to urgently address to save the planet."

Bristol City Council's Director of Public Health, Christina Gray, is urging anyone who wants to join the protests this weekend to "take all necessary precautions" to ensure they minimise the spread of coronavirus.

The council is also asking people who live outside of the city not to join the demonstrators.

Ms Gray added, "Whilst our case numbers remain relatively low we are experiencing a rise in weekly cases and must ask everyone to take responsibility for their actions to protect our city’s health.

"It is vital that we can support our children to return to school and keep our businesses open. These are behaviours, rules and messages for everyone in Bristol, or visiting Bristol.”

Avon and Somerset Police has issued similar warnings.

In a statement it said: “We’ve repeatedly stressed to the protest organisers that while the right to hold peaceful protests are a cornerstone of our society, the spread of coronavirus and the risk of a second wave poses a clear threat to public health and that’s why legislation and restrictions remain in place.

"Throughout the pandemic, we’ve sought to engage with people to explain the legislation and encourage them to comply with it, using enforcement as a last resort.

"We will continue with this approach over the bank holiday weekend, but will not hesitate to use the legislation available to us should we need to.”

Members of the public have been told the Clifton Suspension Bridge may not reopen until Tuesday 1 September at the earliest.