Extinction Rebellion: Climate protesters ‘making a difference’

Greta Thunberg was greeted with loud cheers as she took to the stage

A teenage climate change activist has told Extinction Rebellion protesters in central London they are “making a difference”.

Greta Thunberg, 16, was greeted with loud cheers and chants of “we love you” as she took to the stage in front of thousands at the rally in Marble Arch.

Earlier, one of the group’s members said the protests would be “paused”.

But another said they planned “a week of activities” including a bid to prevent MPs from entering Parliament.

Ms Thunberg, a Swedish teenager who is credited with inspiring an international movement to fight climate change, told the crowd “humanity is standing at a crossroads” and that protesters “will never stop fighting for this planet”.

“We are now facing an existential crisis,” she added.

“The climate crisis, the ecological crisis they have been ignored for decades and for way to long the politicians and the people in power have gotten away with not doing anything at all.

“But we will make sure they will not get away with it any longer.”

Protesters gathered at Marble Arch
Thousands of protesters gathered at Marble Arch to hear Greta Thunberg speak

As of 19:00 BST on Sunday, a total of 963 people had been arrested during the climate change protests.

The Met Police said 40 people, aged 19 to 77, have been charged for “various offences including breach of Section 14 Notice of the Public Order Act 1986, obstructing a highway and obstructing police”.

Extinction Rebellion has said it hoped to negotiate with the Mayor of London and the Met over continuing its demonstrations at Old Palace Yard in Westminster and leaving other sites.

Organisers said there would be a “People’s Assembly” at Marble Arch on Monday afternoon to decide what will happen in the coming week.

police protest
Hundreds of officers from other police forces have been sent to London to help the Met

Earlier, Extinction Rebellion member Farhana Yamin said the group had offered to “pause” protests and begin a “a new phase of rebellion” to achieve “political aims”.

She said the move would show the group was an “organised and a long-term political force to be reckoned with”.

However, another Extinction Rebellion organiser Larch Maxey told the BBC there “certainly won’t be a pause in our activities”.

He said: “On Tuesday we’ve got a series of strategic points around the city which we will be targeting to cause maximum economic disruption while simultaneously focusing on Parliament and inviting MPs to pause.”

Asked if MPs would be able to get into Parliament, he added: “Not if we are successful, we’re going to prevent them getting in so they have time to separate themselves from the politicking and concentrate on what’s at stake here.”

waterloo bridge disruption
Cressida Dick said Londoners had experienced “miserable disruption” because of the protests
Officers carry away pieces of wood as they break up the climate change activist's camp on Waterloo Bridge
Officers carry away pieces of wood as they break up the protesters’ camp on Waterloo Bridge

Police have been trying to confine the protests to Marble Arch but demonstrators have ignored the threat of arrest and continued to block roads across the capital.

Areas around Oxford Circus and Parliament Square have reopened to traffic after officers cleared protesters, but they continue to occupy Waterloo Bridge.

At about 15:40 BST on Sunday, some activists on Waterloo Bridge began removing their collection of trees and plants.

Police have also removed the skate ramp, cooking tents and other infrastructure from the activists’ camp on the bridge.

Officers also cut free and arrested protesters who were “locked on” or glued to Waterloo Bridge.

Free hugs
Climate change protesters have been demonstrating across central London since Monday

Met Commissioner Cressida Dick said she had never experienced anything like the protests in her career.

She said: “I’ve been a police officer for 36 years, I have never known an operation, a single operation, in which over 700 people have been arrested.”

Ms Dick added she was grateful for the help from hundreds of police officers drafted in from several forces, including the neighbouring City of London Police.

Officers from Kent, Sussex, Essex, Hampshire and Greater Manchester have also been sent.

Officers carry sofa
Police have removed infrastructure from the activists’ Waterloo Bridge camp

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the protests were “counter-productive” to London and “more than 9,000 officers” had been responding to the demonstrations.

He said: “Londoners have suffered too much disruption and the policing operation has been extremely challenging for our over-stretched and under-resourced police.

“I’m extremely concerned about the impact the protests are having on our ability to tackle issues like violent crime if they continue any longer.

“It simply isn’t right to put Londoners’ safety at risk like this.”

oxford circus
Police cleared Oxford Circus of protesters on Saturday after six days of demonstrations
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What is Extinction Rebellion?

The co-founder of the protest group invites people to join them
The co-founder of the protest group invites people to join them

Since the group was set up last year, members have shut bridges, poured buckets of fake blood outside Downing Street, blockaded the BBC and stripped semi-naked in Parliament.

It has three core demands  : for the government to “tell the truth about climate change”; to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025; and to create a citizens’ assembly to oversee progress.

Controversially, the group is trying to get as many people arrested as possible.

But critics say they cause unnecessary disruption and waste police time when forces are already overstretched.

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