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Fears protesters will disrupt London Marathon as Extinction Rebellion claims 30,000 activists will descend on capital

More than 200 organisations – including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth – will protest

Joe Middleton
Tuesday 18 April 2023 19:22 BST
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Extinction Rebellion activists smash windows at HSBC headquarters in London

More than 30,000 people have signed up to attend Extinction Rebellion’s protest in the capital that starts on Friday, stoking fears the London Marathon could be disrupted.

The planned four days of action, dubbed “the Big One”, will see people from a coalition of groups and movements – including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and PCS Union – gather in Westminster and outside parliament.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) said in January it would “temporarily” stop using public disruption tactics this year, meaning there is unlikely to be a repeat of the 2019 protest in the capital that led to widespread disruption and more than 1,000 people being arrested.

However, Just Stop Oil have confirmed with The Independent that they are one of the organisations attending the event and are committed to disrupting sporting and cultural events.

The campaign group would not confirm any specific plans for the London Marathon, but on Monday a protester from the group disrupted the World Snooker Championship by throwing orange paint powder across a snooker table.

An XR protest outside a branch of Barclays Bank in Glasgow in January (AFP)

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement they have a “policing plan in place to provide an appropriate response to the protest” and that specialist officers are available in case any protesters lock or glue themselves to street furniture or buildings.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Marijn van de Geer, of XR, denied there would be any “specific intention to disrupt the public” over the weekend but did warn of “logistical” issues due to the London Marathon going on at the same time.

She said: “So we just want to really highlight that the four days of the big one are not intended as public disruption. This is really for gathering, coming together, getting to know one another and deliberation.

“We will be using forms of deliberative democracy, deliberating with each other, exchanging ideas, learning from each other, listening, especially.

XR targets private jet users at Luton airport in February (Extinction Rebellion)

“So there’s not going to be any intention over those four days to disrupt the public.

“Of course, having 30,000 people in the Westminster area may cause some logistical disruption, and there is of course also the London Marathon happening as well, so it is going to be nice and busy in central London over the weekend.”

The group has warned that it will step up its campaign in “new and inventive ways” if the government does not agree to two demands.

The first is to “end all new licences, approvals and funding for fossil fuel projects” and the second is that they want ministers to “create emergency citizens assemblies to lead on fair, long-term solutions to the most urgent issues of our time”.

XR protesters march along Whitehall near Downing Street last year (AP)

Ms Van de Geer said the government has until 5pm on Monday 24 April “to agree to enter negotiations about the two collective demands that we have presented to them today”.

She added: “If we don’t get a response, at 10am on Tuesday April 25 Extinction Rebellion will build an unprecedented coalition, stepping up our campaigns in the weeks and months ahead along three pathways – that is to picket to stand in solidarity with the strikers, to organise locally and to disobey.”

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: “The Met is aware of planned protests by Extinction Rebellion this weekend. We are in contact with the organisers in the run up to their event, and will continue to engage with them throughout the period, in an effort to avoid serious disruption and delays to London’s communities and the other events taking place in London.

“However, we have a policing plan in place to provide an appropriate response to the protest. People can expect a visible, engaging but firm policing presence to tackle any criminal or anti-social behaviour and disorder.

“Alongside a significant policing response we will be using specialist officers to respond to any protesters who lock or glue themselves to street furniture or purpose built structures.”

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