Police have arrested nearly 300 people as thousands of Extinction Rebellion climate activists blocked main roads and at least two bridges in central London on Monday’s opening day of global protests by the group.
The Metropolitan Police reported a total of 280 arrests across London late on Monday.
Officers had to drag away protesters, who sat in the middle of a main road into Parliament Square.
Other protesters erected scaffolding, tents, vehicles and makeshift buildings to block roads, under the close watch of hundreds of uniformed police.
The police thwarted plans by religious activists to create a “faith bridge” blockade along Lambeth Bridge, which was sealed off by police but blocked by protesters at one end.
One elderly protester, who travelled from the nearby city of Oxford said he was escorted off the bridge by dozens of police, adding that another man was arrested for obstruction.
“They grabbed anything that was put on the bridge, like a giant statue. We’re lucky to be here,” said the man, who gave only the single name Steven.
“It’s very indicative of the modern world that the secular police stop ‘faiths united’,” he said he guarded flags and religious images hung on railings as a makeshift shrine.
Another middle-aged Christian protester, carrying a large wooden cross on his shoulder, said he had travelled to Lambeth Bridge from the edge of London.
Asking to be identified only by his first name, Simon, he said he was at his first Extinction Rebellion event.
“I’ve come of my own volition to do my own pilgrimage, but I’m very sympathetic to why everybody else is here,” Simon said.
“I realised today is a significant day, and I have friends in Malawi, in Sierra Leone, in Haiti – where I’ve worked – and they can’t be here,” he said.
“But they were already suffering [in Malawi] 25 years ago when they couldn’t explain why they’re getting droughts year after year,” Simon said.
“Things haven’t improved… And so I’m carrying a cross because this cross is a symbol of hope.”
Caroline Lucas, Britain’s sole Green Party Member of Parliament, said the protests are “sending a clear message to government to say we need to tell the truth about the climate emergency.
“We need radical action now,” Lucas said in a video message from one of the protests.
“There is more political leadership on the streets than I’ve ever seen in the House of Commons,” she said, referring to parliament’s elected house, where she sits.
Extinction Rebellion UK said at least 23 people were arrested as police tried to remove a model of a Trident nuclear-capable missile that was erected in a “peace blockade” outside Britain’s Defence Ministry earlier Monday.
The group has promised “the largest regenerative movement of civil disobedience in history.”
The police said 11 people were arrested over the weekend.
Extinction Rebellion, or XR, said the police also seized six vehicles, plus tents, toilets and “disabled access equipment” from a London warehouse.
“They really know how to get to people,” Steven said. “They can’t protest with a full bladder. Well done, police!”
Smaller Extinction Rebellion protests were held in cities across the globe on Monday, including Berlin, Paris, New York and Wellington. (dpa/NAN)