Environmental activists today aim to mobilise thousands of protesters to shut down some of central London’s busiest streets, in an escalation of a campaign aiming to force the government to address rampant climate change.
Extinction Rebellion (XR), which generated headlines earlier this month when activists protested naked in Parliament, has more than 2,000 volunteers signed up to take part in the UK element of what organisers hope will be an international week of protest.
XR will block traffic at Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge, Parliament Square and Piccadilly Circus from 11am on Monday.
It aims to continue occupying the roads around-the-clock for at least 72 hours. Many activists say they are willing to be arrested.
“We will peacefully block traffic around the clock. This will be a full-scale festival of creative resistance, with people’s assemblies, art actions, stage performances, talks, workshops, food and family spaces,” the group says on its website.
The protests, which XR describes as non-violent civil disobedience, follows similar action last November when thousands of protesters occupied five central London bridges. Police arrested 85 people that day, and XR expects further arrests this week.
Participants, who have travelled from across the country to join the protests – including a five-week “Earth March” from Cornwall – were encouraged to camp overnight in Hyde Park.
In the face of unprecedented climate breakdown – scientists have warned we have 12 years to stop runaway global warming – XR has three demands it hopes its acts of disobedience will help bring about.
It is demanding the UK government declare a climate and ecological emergency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025, and create a so-called Citizen’s Assembly made up of members of the public, which will lead on decisions to address climate and ecological breakdown.
An XR spokesperson said: “When government and the law fail to provide any assurance of adequate protection, as well as security for its people’s well-being and the nation’s future, it becomes the right of its citizens to seek redress in order to restore dutiful democracy and to secure the solutions needed to avert catastrophe and protect the future.
“It becomes not only our right, it becomes our sacred duty to rebel.”
Scotland Yard said they have "appropriate policing plans" in place for the demonstrations and that officers will be used from across the force "to support the public order operation during the coming weeks".
Police advised people travelling around London in the coming days to allow extra time for their journey in the event of road closures and general disruption.
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