Extinction Rebellion has expressed regret over ugly scenes at a London Tube station when a protester was dragged from the roof of a train and attacked by angry commuters.
Video posted on social media showed several activists climbing on to a train at Canning Town station in east London during rush hour on Thursday morning.
Commuters can be heard swearing and shouting at the climate change demonstrators who were holding a sign reading: “Business as usual = death.”
Several people throw objects at the activists.
In another clip posted on Twitter, one can be seen being pulled from the train by his foot. He ends up on the platform, surrounded by a crowd who appear to punch and kick him.
A member of Transport for London staff appears to stop people from attacking the demonstrator further by holding them back.
The climate protest group acknowledged the action was “divisive” and said several of its members had acted “autonomously”. In a statement, Extinction Rebellion said: “It is regretful that there was violence at today’s action at Canning Town tube station. We would like to express our sadness that events escalated this way.
“We are aware that one of our activists responded in self-defence in a moment of panic when confronted by a threatening situation. He acknowledges his accountability for this action and we offer gratitude for members of the public who helped to protect him.”
The group apologised for the disruption to commuters and said that the incident should not create “unnecessary division”.
“In light of today’s events, Extinction Rebellion will be looking at ways to bring people together rather than create an unnecessary division,” the statement added.
Separately, another Extinction Rebellion activist filmed the moment when an angry mob of commuters turned on him at the station. In footage broadcast live on Extinction Rebellion’s Facebook page, furious passengers confront the man, who claims he is a journalist.
Before he drops his phone as he is set upon by commuters, the man says: “I’m not part of this action, I’m here to film this action, guys, I am filming the action. I film what happens at all protests, sir. I am a media representative. I am media, it is a free [inaudible] ...”
He later tells the camera: “Right guys, I’ve just been attacked by a mob on the Tube. We’re trying to report the news here, and thousands of people watching have just witnessed the assault.”
British Transport Police confirmed they had arrested eight people on Thursday morning. Assistant Chief Constable Sean O’Callaghan said: “Despite our countless warnings, we are frustrated that Extinction Rebellion put people at risk to obstruct services on London’s rail network.
“Those who obstructed services are in custody and will be dealt with robustly. This type of action is completely at odds with what Extinction Rebellion are campaigning for and we will continue to urge them to not target any rail network.”
Everyone detained was arrested on suspicion of obstructing the railway.
ACC O’Callaghan added: “However, it was also concerning to see that a number of commuters took matters into their own hands, displaying violent behaviour to detain a protester at Canning Town.
“Understandably, the delay to passengers’ journeys would have been annoying, but this level of response was unacceptable. We are now investigating this morning’s events at Canning Town in its entirety.
“It is important that commuters and other rail users allow the police, who are specially trained, to manage these incidents.”
A poll on the Extinction Rebellion Telegram chat showed 86 per cent of members were against action targeting the London Underground. Just 4 per cent approved, while 7 per cent approved if they could be sure that trains would not be blocked underground.
Meanwhile, the activists were refused an urgent High Court hearing of their case against the Metropolitan Police over a London-wide protest ban introduced on Monday night. Mr Justice Dingemans said the case raised important issues and could not be rushed.
Downing Street heavily criticised the protesters for causing “unnecessary disruption”. A spokesman said: “What we saw this morning didn’t have anything to do with peaceful protest.”
In 10 days of protests to call for urgent action on climate change and wildlife losses, activists have shut down areas around Parliament and the Bank of England, and targeted City Airport and government departments.
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