Climate protesters demand political action

| 22nd April 2019
Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, addressed the Extinction Rebellion demonstrators at Marble Arch in London.

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Protests calling for the Government to declare a climate emergency are set to enter a second week after nearly 1,000 people were arrested during the first seven days of Extinction Rebellion demonstrations.

Activists have stopped traffic in a series of demonstrations across London since Monday with actions including fixing a boat at the junction of Oxford Street and Regent Street, occupying Waterloo Bridge and disrupting the Docklands Light Railway by climbing on a train.

A total of 963 people had been arrested as of 7pm on Sunday while 40 have been charged in connection with the XR protests, the Met Police said.

Disruption

Olympic gold medallist Etienne Stott was one of the activists arrested on Waterloo Bridge as police cleared the final section of carriageway on Sunday evening.

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

Members of Extinction Rebellion are suggesting temporarily ending disruptive tactics to focus on political negotiations as they enter the eighth day of campaigning.

A spokesman said there would be no escalation of activity on Bank Holiday Monday, but warned that the disruption could get "much worse" if politicians were not open to their negotiation requests.

The group will no longer hold a picnic on the Westway by Edgware Road Underground station, which would have stopped traffic on the busy A-road on the last day of the long Easter weekend.

Negotiating

Instead, at Marble Arch, the only police-sanctioned protest space, activists will meet to "vision what's going to happen in the coming week", an Extinction Rebellion member said, as she introduced Swedish activist Greta Thunberg to the stage.

The 16-year-old was met with cheers as she walked on stage and told a crowd of hundreds that humanity was at a crossroads.

She said: "Many people are scared and feel bad - 'I was not the one of first people to do that; I am behind now; I'm only going to look silly because I did not start before' - but what they don't realise is that it's so few that have actually realised what is going on.

"So if you start now, you are going to be one of the pioneers, so it's never too late but especially now, the struggle has barely begun. It's
only the beginning."

The XR movement is here to stay, will not go away, and is set to keep growing, wildlife television presenter Chris Packham has said.

Political circle

Speaking on Waterloo Bridge in London, after addressing the activists still gathered on the River Thames crossing from the top of a bus shelter, he said the movement has already achieved change.

Asked by the Press Association if he thought the Government would listen to their demands, Mr Packham said: "Well if they don't listen next week they'll listen next time, because we are not going away, this movement is here to stay.

"We will continue to peacefully demonstrate our concerns and the government will eventually come to the table - we know these things work, it's worked all the way throughout history. This is the most important time in our planet's history to make things work."

He praised the efforts of the XR movement and the campaigners who have glued and locked themselves on to surfaces, and said that because of its success he is "absolutely certain it will grow".

Headway

Also on Sunday, in what the group later said was an internal memo intended to garner feedback from members, Farhana Yamin, the group's political circle co-ordinator, said the group 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."

Farhana, the group's political circle co-ordinator said: "Today marks a transition from week one, which focused on actions that were vision-holding but also caused mass "disruption" across many dimensions - economic, cultural, emotional, social.

"Week two marks a new phase of rebellion focused on 'negotiations' where the focus will shift to our actual political demands. We want to show that XR is a cohesive long-term, global force, not some flash in the pan.

"We can do that by showing we are disciplined and cannot only start disruptive actions but also end these when needed. We are not a rabble,
we are rebels with a cause! Being able to 'pause' a rebellion shows that we are organised and a long-term political force to be reckoned with.

"This will give XR leverage as we enter into negotiations with those in power to make headway on our three demands."

Proposals

The proposal suggests negotiating with the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Metropolitan Police, to agree that they be allowed to continue their protests at one site in London.

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 take forward public negotiations with the Government, warning that they are prepared to scale up action depending on how much progress is made. 

Neither the Met nor the Mayor's Office would say whether they were considering the proposals.

This Author

This article is based on copy from the Press Association.

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