Extinction Rebellion London Protests: What You Need To Know

Extinction Rebellion started a two-week takeover of London on Sunday evening which is expected to cause major disruption in the capital.

Extinction Rebellion – or XR – are expecting thousands of its members to take part in this new campaign, dubbed the ‘Impossible Rebellion’.

This protest wants the government to stop investing in fossil fuel companies so intends to “target the root cause of the climate and ecological crisis”. According to the activists, it will continue its demonstrations until the government meets its demands.

The environmental movement has been galvanised after the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s damning report, released in early August, blamed the climate crisis solely on humans.

The activists are also campaigning ahead of COP26, the climate summit the UK is hosting in Glasgow in November.

Which parts of London is XR focusing on?

The climate activists will be focusing on London’s financial district, the City of London, from Monday August 23.

Lawyer and XR activist Tim Crosland said: “We’ll be targeting the City of London because it’s time that people understand the real contribution of the UK to this crisis.

“The City of London is the arch financier of the carbon economy. It supports 15 percent of global carbon emissions.

“It hosts BP, Shell, Glencore, Anglo American, and Russian oil and gas companies such as Gazprom and Rosneft.”

A marching band on Monday blocked Trafalgar Square and roads leading up to Nelson’s Column.

Activists are also gathering in St James’ Park and Piccadilly Circus, while the Met Police are already responding to a blockage at Long Acre Junction in Westminster.

More protests are expected to pop up in both north and south London.

What stunts can we expect?

The activists caused a stir immediately on Sunday, when three protesters climbed up the entrance of the Guildhall in central London.

A crowd of approximately 200 sang and cheered on the activists, who also sprayed red paint over the walls and released a banner which read “co-liberation freedom together”.

Special officers and a JCB vehicle were brought in to remove them at about 8pm. Police said they arrested nine people in total in relation to criminal damage charges. 

On Monday, the rebellion put up a four-metre high pink table between St Martin’s Lane and Great Newport Street in Leicester Square while calling for the public to ‘come to the table’.

The object is supposed to represent their demand for a collaborative Citizens’ Assembly to deal with the environmental crisis.

The group, famous for their stunts, are expected to continue causing disruption through the bank holiday weekend.

What will the police do?

Officers have reportedly been extracted from their local boroughs and brought to central London to deal with the demonstration.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said: “We’ve got a significant operation in place led by an experienced command team to effectively provide a proportionate response to what is going to be a protracted demonstration over two weeks.

“We understand why this is such an important cause, no one is oblivious to that, what we don’t want is for people who are protesting to impact on the rights of others.”

XR’s previous protests

This is the group’s fifth mass UK protest – in June this year, hundreds gathered to demonstrate during the G7 Summit in Cornwall.

They tried to disrupt the meeting between world leaders through extensive noise and used the slogan “sound the alarm”.

In September 2020, the group took to Parliament Square to demand the government act on the climate crisis during 10 days of civil disobedience.

Topless protesters even chained themselves to the gates of the Houses of Parliament.

In October 2019, they staged a series of protests around the world – it is thought 30,000 activists gathered in London, including prominent public figures such as comic Simon Amstell and former MP Stanley Johnson.

One protester – former Paralympian James Brown – even climbed on top of a plane and glued himself to it as part of his protest.

In April 2019, they caused significant traffic delays in London when protesting organisations which contributed to climate change during 11 days of protest, and blocked five major sites in London.

The group blocked five bridges across the River Thames in protest in 2018, with some people gluing themselves to major London roads. More than 1000 people gathered in Parliament Square so Parliament would hear their “Declaration of Rebellion”.

Legal spats

The environmentalists have not had a warm reception from home secretary Priti Patel. She has condemned them as “criminals” who threaten the UK’s way of life in the past, while others have dubbed them “extremists”.

The government is also trying to pass the divisive Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which has sparked violent protests in the UK – it aims to crack down on noisy and disruptive demonstrations, like those organised by XR.

However the bill has been seen as an attack on the basic human right to protest and dubbed “authoritarian”.

Critics have claimed the police are too tolerant to XR as well, although they have made significant arrests in the past.

The Supreme Court recently ruled that protest is a “lawful excuse” to block roads under human rights law – forcing prosecutors to review cases into XR protesters who were prosecuted for highway obstruction. Some activists also successfully appealed to have their convictions quashed.

XR has now demanded to know how its ongoing demonstrations will be policed, after previous actions saw 3,762 protesters arrested by the Met Police.

XR activists have even written to Scotland Yard commissioner Dame Cressida Dick and claimed they could accuse officers of “unlawful arrest” if the police “disproportionately interfere with a citizen’s rights of expression and assembly”.

How are XR funded?

The Extinction Rebellion website claims its money comes from “crowdfunding, major donors, NGO’s, trusts and foundations”.

They promote “civil disobedience” over signing online petitions. It has received large donations in the past, including $350,000 (£273,544.39) from the Climate Emergency Fund and £50,000 from hedge fund investor Christopher Hohn.

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