XR activists defy police protest shutdown

| 15th October 2019
Dr Gail Bradbrook climbs entrance to the Department for Transport in Westminster.

I'm refusing to leave and I've glued myself to the ground. I shall stay here until I'm arrested.

Extinction Rebellion protest action is continuing in London despite police ordering activists to end their gatherings across the capital or risk arrest.

On Tuesday morning, the group's co-founder, Dr Gail Bradbrook, climbed on top of the entrance of the building in central London and "lightly" hit the glass with a hammer, said she was taking action for trees threatened by HS2.

She said: "I do this in fierce love of the 108 ancient woodlands threatened by HS2, this climate crime of a project. Imagine the good we could do with HS2's anticipated cost to rapidly accelerate towards our demands to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.

Rebels

"If the Government is serious about plans to meet the net zero target they need to stop funding destructive projects such as HS2 and airport expansions."

Extinction Rebellion said other protesters had glued themselves to the building. It said activists were calling on the government to explain its plan to meet a net-zero emissions target within the carbon budget of the UK.

The protesters' latest actions came after the Metropolitan Police imposed conditions under Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986, requiring any protest assembly in the capital to cease by 9pm on Monday.

The force said this was to "prevent serious disruption to the life of the community". On Monday evening, activists were cleared from Trafalgar Square, where many had lawfully congregated for the past week.

In response to the police action, an Extinction Rebellion (XR) statement said its "rebels" would take "a moment to pause and remember why we are here".

Breaches

It added: "Extinction Rebellion will let the Trafalgar Square site go tonight. The International Rebellion continues."

On Twitter, XR's London branch labelled the clearing of protesters from the square as "an outrage".

It also tweeted: "Today, an unprecedented, political, decision has been taken to shut down peaceful protest calling out the government for inaction in the face of crisis."

As of 5pm on Monday, police said there had been 1,445 arrests in connection with the eight days of XR protests in London.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said conditions were being imposed on protesters due to "continued breaches" of previous police orders and "ongoing serious disruption to the community".

Peace

He added: "We have made significant progress in managing Extinction Rebellion's activity at sites across central London over this past week.

"Officers have begun the process of clearing Trafalgar Square and getting things back to normal."

Mr Taylor said officers had made more than 90 arrests on Monday as protesters targeted the City of London, the capital's financial district.

He added: "The policing operation continues, and we will continue to take action against anyone engaged in unlawful protests at locations targeted by Extinction Rebellion."

On Monday night in Trafalgar Square, four people in a so-called peace tent, who had locked themselves together, were cut out of their locks with machinery.

Generations

Pam Williams, 71, glued herself to the spot where her tent stood as police arrived to take it.

Speaking to the PA news agency, she said: "I'm refusing to leave and I've glued myself to the ground. My husband has taken away the tent, the police haven't got it. I shall stay here until I'm arrested."

Ellie Chowns, a Green Party MEP, said she was arrested after "standing in solidarity" with protesters in Trafalgar Square.

At 11.30pm, only around 50 protesters remained in Trafalgar Square and the majority of the activists' infrastructure had been removed.

Activists had previously said they planned to launch "XR Grandparents", an initiative focused on older generations, on Tuesday afternoon.

This Author

Tom Pilgrim is a reporter with PA.

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