Over a 1,000 people were arrested in London last week as the Extinction Rebellion climate movement reached unprecedented levels and blocked major bridges and roads across the capital.
Protestors congregated at five key locations across London, including blocking Waterloo Bridge and Piccadilly Circus, while a bright pink boat was parked outside Oxford Circus as the heart of a major blockage around the shopping heartland of Oxford Street.
Onlookers have reported a ‘festival-like’ atmosphere, with protestors sitting or lying in the roads, dancing, or playing music. Parliament Square has been turned into a make-shift campsite, with pop-up kitchens and tents, as protestors this week await the return of MPs from the Easter recess.
At the National History museum, over 1,000 people lay down in a so-called ‘die-in’ – lying on the floor under the giant blue whale skeleton in a mass demonstration and protest against the sixth mass extinction that is expected to happen following drastic impacts of climate change.
Swedish schoolgirl and climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has sparked the global Youth for Climate strike, arrived in London support the movement at the weekend, speaking at an event hosted by the Guardian and meeting with cross-party politicians and party leaders, with the notable exception of Theresa May.
Introducing Thunberg at the Guardian event, Green Party co-leader and MP Caroline Lucas, said: “It will not be the people who block roads and bridges that history will judge badly, it is those who shut their eyes. We are going to change what is politically possible so it can become the scientifically necessary.”
The movement has attracted thousands from across the country, as well as high-profile backers such as Thunberg and actor Emma Thompson, who appeared on the climate boat at Oxford Circus, and in a social media video calling for the public to “come and join the Extinction Rebellion” protest.
The grassroots movement began in October 2018 and has been building up to last week’s ‘week of rebellion’, encouraging peaceful civil disobedience with an emphasis on diversity and inclusiveness.
At its heart are three core messages, it wants the government to ‘tell the truth’ about the climate emergency; cut the UK’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 (the current target is 2030); and establish a citizen’s assembly to oversee the changes that will be required.
Extinction Rebellion has now entered its second week of coordinated protests across London.The group said it is holding discussions and will make a collective decision about how and when to leave.