Extinction Rebellion: More than 1,000 protesters arrested, police say as activists target Natural History Museum

Protesters have been cleared from Waterloo Bridge, Oxford Circus and Parliament Square after a week of demonstrations 

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Monday 22 April 2019 13:35 BST
Extinction Rebellion protesters perform 'die-in' at Natural History Museum

The number of climate change activists arrested at London protests has passed 1,000 as a police crackdown continues.

The Metropolitan Police said the number of arrests hit 1,065 and 53 people have so far been charged.

Extinction Rebellion protesters staged a "die-in" at the Natural History Museum on Easter Monday to evoke a "mass extinction" in the world-famous attraction's entrance hall.

Meanwhile, an ongoing rally in Marble Arch saw speeches from shadow international trade minister Barry Gardiner and Green MP Caroline Lucas.

Extinction Rebellion protests have been moving through London since 15 April, blocking Waterloo Bridge, Oxford Circus and Parliament Square.

Demonstrators have now been cleared from these three sites and Scotland Yard said police “remain in frequent contact with the organisers to ensure that the serious disruption to Londoners is brought to a close as soon as possible and that only lawful and peaceful protests continue”.

Olympic gold medallist Etienne Stott was one of the activists arrested as police moved to clear Waterloo Bridge on Sunday evening.

The London 2012 canoe slalom champion was carried from the bridge by four officers at around 8.30pm as he shouted about the “ecological crisis”.

Waterloo Bridge was reopened overnight on Sunday, while Oxford Street and Parliament Square were cleared earlier in the day.

Officers were accused of brutality towards activists after footage emerged of protesters being dragged along the ground by their wrists on Friday.

“We have always been, are and will always be non-violent,” Extinction Rebellion tweeted in response.

“This aggression from the police against our peaceful rebels in London is inexcusable. Shame on them, do they not know that we are rebelling for their families and loved ones also.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said protesters had ignored orders to leave Oxford Street and go to Marble Arch, with some “obstructing officers in the course of their duties”.

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg tells Extinction Rebellion supporters 'humanity is at a crossroads'

“The response by officers has been proportionate in order to facilitate their removal,” a statement added.

Sajid Javid said police had the government’s “full support” last week and hit out at demonstrators for “causing misery for the millions of people who are trying to lead their daily lives” with travel disruption.

“I expect the police to take a firm stance and use the full force of the law,” the home secretary added.

Scotland Yard said more than 1,000 officers were being deployed every day to police the protests, “putting strain” on the force.

“The protesters need to understand that their demonstration is meaning officers are being diverted away from their core local duties that help keep London safe and that this will have implications in the weeks and months beyond this protest as officers take back leave and the cost of overtime,” a statement added.

The Violent Crime Taskforce had its Easter leave cancelled in order to “retain the capacity to deal with any unrelated violent incidents”.

Activists had blocked Oxford Circus using a pink model boat which acted as a stage for almost a week, while closing off Waterloo Bridge and lining it with trees and stalls.

Previously, Extinction Rebellion had launched stunts seeing naked protesters affix themselves to the windows of the House of Commons public gallery and block bridges.

Police remove Extinction Rebellion demonstrators from Waterloo Bridge in London
Police remove Extinction Rebellion demonstrators from Waterloo Bridge in London (Victoria Jones/PA Wire)

Several activists were charged for obstructing a DLR train at Canary Wharf station, and others are being prosecuted for offences including breaching the Public Order Act, obstructing a highway and obstructing police.

Police documents show that protesters charged range between the ages of 19 and 77, and hail from across the UK.

An Extinction Rebellion spokesperson said there would be no escalation of activity on Easter Monday, but warned that the disruption could get “much worse” if politicians are not open to their negotiation requests.

In an internal memo, Farhana Yamin, the group's political circle co-ordinator said they would shift tactics to “focus on political demands”.

She added: “Being able to 'pause' a rebellion shows that we are organised and a long-term political force to be reckoned with.”

The proposal suggests negotiating with London mayor Sadiq Khan and the Metropolitan Police to allow them to continue their protests at one site.

Members would commit to not disrupting other areas in exchange for Mr Khan speeding up the implementation of the Declaration of Climate and Ecological Emergency, and considering setting up a London Citizens' Assembly.

They will also set up a political taskforce to make public negotiations with the government, warning that they are prepared to scale up action depending on how much progress is made.

Officials have not confirmed whether they are considering the proposals.

Additional reporting by PA

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in