Extinction Rebellion protest: Shell HQ windows smashed as thousands of climate change activists shut down major London streets

Parliament Square, Oxford Circus, Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge and Piccadilly Circus taken over by activists

Tom Embury-Dennis
Monday 15 April 2019 17:33 BST
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'I'm willing to be arrested' Protester glues her hand to the door of Shell's London HQ during Extinction Rebellion protest

Thousands of environmental activists have shut down some of central London’s busiest roads in an attempt to force the government to address escalating climate change.

Members of Extinction Rebellion (XR) took over roads around Parliament Square, Oxford Circus, Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge and Piccadilly Circus late on Monday morning, in what they hope will be the UK element of an international week of protest.

Organisers said they planned to occupy the streets around the clock for days, with many taking part willing to be arrested.

The protests, which XR describes as non-violent civil disobedience, follows similar action last November when thousands of people occupied five central London bridges. Police detained 85 people that day.

At fossil fuel company Shell’s London headquarters, activists daubed “Shell kills” on its walls, glued themselves to its windows and shattered glass in the front entrance’s revolving doors.

A climate change activist is seen with his hands glued to the entrance of the Shell Centre
A climate change activist is seen with his hands glued to the entrance of the Shell Centre (Reuters)

“We non-violently cracked some windows at Shell’s HQ in London earlier because their operations are killing all life on Earth,” XR said, adding the corporation was contributing to “ecocide”.

The group said nine activists caused more than £6,000 in damage in a bid to get the case referred to the Crown Court, where they would be given the opportunity to make their case to a jury.

Amid a sizeable police presence, hundreds of protesters at Marble Arch, one of the busiest intersections in the country, unfurled banners and flags. A handful of activists chained themselves to the underside of a lorry – which was doubling as a stage – to ensure police could not remove it.

At Oxford Circus, protesters sat in the middle of the road beneath a pink model boat emblazoned with the message, “Tell the truth”, while Waterloo Bridge was turned into an impromptu garden bridge and temporary skate park.

In Parliament Square, hundreds of people unfurled banners, held up placards and waved flags as speakers took to a stage.

In a sign they were in for the long haul, a number of protesters were seen carrying tents, while eco-friendly portable toilets were set up in the streets.

As of Monday afternoon, police said they had made three arrests, all on suspicion of causing criminal damage to the Shell HQ on Belvedere Road.

“I’m here because I feel very worried about the environment and the impact on everyone in the world, not just our society, I feel stressed about it,” Jess, a 29-year-old charity worker at the Marble Arch protest, told The Independent.

She added: “I’ll feel like a complete idiot when I’m an old person if I don’t do this now, and I feel very sad. I think that when you look at pictures of the oceans rammed full of plastic, birds choking on it, forests being cut down, none of this is positive.”

Julian Maynard-Smith, a part-time artist who was helping redirect traffic, accused the government of failing to take action against a looming catastrophe, and warned: “We have so little time we need to do something to wake everybody up.”

A teaching assistant, Elena H-Kajehan, who was blocking traffic behind a banner which read “Extinction, Your Future”, said the environment was “suffering” and that society “wasn’t doing enough to make a change”.

“The government and people need to understand what’s going on,” she added.

Demonstrators during an Extinction Rebellion protest in Parliament Square
Demonstrators during an Extinction Rebellion protest in Parliament Square (PA)

One onlooker, a 24-year-old supermarket worker called Sam, said he was impressed by the scale of the protest and the fact Marble Arch was almost traffic-free.

“It just shows how much support there is against how there’s not enough being done on climate change by the government,” he said.

In the face of climate breakdown – scientists have warned we have 12 years to stop catastrophic global warming – XR has three demands.

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 citizens’ assembly made up of members of the public, which would lead decision-making in the fight against climate and ecological breakdown

XR said there were set to be protests in at least 80 cities in more than 33 countries, including Scotland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

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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