Extinction Rebellion make camp in Soho for day two of London protests

‘We’re only on day two, and the rebellion will continue to build’

Holly Bancroft
Tuesday 24 August 2021 21:34
Extinction Rebellion activists protest against climate inaction in the streets of London

Another 40 environmentalists were arrested on Tuesday as Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists rounded up day two of an ongoing protest by attempting to “take” another site in London’s West End, continuing a game of cat and mouse with the police.

Police managed to “methodically dismantle” the group’s large pink table structure, positioned in the middle of Covent Garden in London on Monday.

However, by Tuesday evening officers were trying to coax activists off the top of a van parked in the middle of Cambridge Circus in Soho.

Dozens of officers encircled a van carrying equipment needed by the protesters to build a camp in the busy junction.

Metropolitan Police called the XR activists “unreasonable” for using complicated lock-on devices to prolong their protest.

XR has encouraged supporters to come down to “the best club in London”, using drums and chants to create a party atmosphere in Leicester Square.

Members of XR’s Cymru branch took charge of the protests on Tuesday by staging a “die-in” demonstration on the streets of Westminster.

One protester, Reese, who sat in Whitehall glued to a container, said: “I’m not sure how long I’ve been locked on for, I think it was from 10:30 this morning. I’ve travelled from Wales.”

She said she got involved with the two-week-long “Impossible Rebellion” because she was concerned for the future of the planet.

“I’ve been too afraid to have children because of the climate crisis,” she said. “Me and my partner are just too afraid that our children will grow up and see more pandemics, more flooding, more fire, it’s just terrifying.”

Protesters dressed as cleaners began scrubbing at the doors of HMRC to signal it being cleaned of its connections to Barclays bank, which the activists described as “dirty” for its ongoing connection to the fossil fuel industry.

Mike, a 72-year-old attending his first Extinction Rebellion protest, said: “We’re just ordinary human beings who’ve come from all over the country. Extremism is just a way of being able to label an organisation that you don’t like.”

Police soon arrived and blasted warnings from speakers on top of a van to the assembled environmentalists.

The main group of climate rebels marched from Westminster, through Trafalgar Square and into Leicester Square. Protest turned to party as a group gathered to dance, chant and bang drums.

Andrea Hewes, wife of Reverend Tim Hewes who was arrested at the pink table on Monday, said the group was trying to create an atmosphere of “non-confrontation and peace”.

She added: “My husband is now in a cell waiting to be released. He’s fine but I was really worried about him when I went home last night. But I came back today because I felt I had to. I spoke to him and he sounded good.

“He was expected to be arrested and it will give him a chance to say what he needs to say in court. Juries are considering the proportionality of what activists are doing. The difference between their act of rebellion her and the scale of the climate crisis.”

Just before 4pm, police issued a statement saying that they had cleared everyone from the streets around Westminster. But a battle was on in the heart of Soho as Extinction Rebellion manoeuvred a bus in front of the Palace Theatre and made camp.

Ben Sharpley, 22, from Southampton, speaking at the Cambridge Circus encampment said: “I’m scared. I’ve seen the science, I’ve seen what’s happening. At first it was intellectual interest, and now I’m properly scared.”

The Met Police said: “Officers are at Cambridge Circus where a number of protesters have blocked a junction, including using lock-on devices. Officers are working to safely removed these individuals as safely and quickly as possible.”

Alanna Byrne, a spokeperson for XR, said: “This rebellion is about people coming together to take and share ideas in fun and creative ways. But we’re only on day two, and the rebellion will continue to build.”

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