Police made 148 arrests in the first hours of Extinction Rebellion’s two week protest that has already brought parts of central London to a standstill.
Extinction Rebellion (XR) say the action will be five times bigger than the protests in April that paralysed routes around London and saw 1,130 protesters arrested.
XR organisers are expecting some 30,000 people to take part in protests over the next two weeks which began with an “opening ceremony” at Marble Arch on Sunday night, featuring meditation and dancing.
PM tells police – ‘use full force of the law’
Boris Johnson has told police to “use the full force of the law” to deal with campaigners who took over Westminster and Lambeth bridges, Trafalgar Square, the Mall, Whitehall, Victoria Embankment and effectively shut down other parts of the capital.
Extra police were stationed around landmark sites early on Monday morning as activists gathered to perform yoga, play cricket, attend a wedding and build temporary structures around Westminster.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “People have the right to protest peacefully but they must do so within the law.
“It is essential that people can continue to go about their business getting to and from work, visiting families and have access to vital public services including emergency services, hospitals and schools.
“The right to peaceful protest does not extend to unlawful activity – the Government expects the police to take a firm stance against protesters who significantly disrupt the lives of others and to use the full force of the law.”
The Met Police’s territorial support group made pre-emptive strikes against activists over the weekend that saw 11 arrests, various items seized and a former court building raided, amidst police warnings that XR is putting a bigger strain on police resources than the 2017 terror attacks.
XR said it plans to cause minimal disruption to ordinary Londoners but admitted their actions may disrupt emergency workers at St Thomas’s hospital which is across the river Thames, opposite the Houses of Parliament.
Police described the protests as “unprecedented” in scale and length and hope the carnival-like atmosphere of the April demonstrations continues in October.
‘Confident protests will lead to change’
The London protests are part of an “international rebellion” taking place in cities around the world to demand political action on global climate and ecological emergencies.
Among the London protesters are retired-senior police officers, celebrities and famous actors including Sir Mark Rylance who addressed XR protestors in St James’ Park, saying: “People have been saying to me, it doesn’t make a difference having a celebrity joining the protests.
“But I want people to know climate change protesters aren’t hippies. I am confident these protests are going to lead to a solid change.”
XR was founded in 2018 and is self described as a worldwide “non-violent civil disobedience activist movement.” Among its aims are immediate action to tackle climate change and zero carbon emissions by 2025.