Police have enjoyed an overnight rave with eco-warriors after being accused of surrendering London’s streets.
Two officers danced with the Extinction Rebellion demonstrators at Oxford Circus in London yesterday evening, as one pumped his hand in the air as the other danced alongside him and the protesters chanted ‘we love you’.
The video, posted on Twitter shortly before midnight overnight, follows politicians criticising Scotland Yard after the activists managed to block a string of key thoroughfares in the city for the third day in a row.
As officers were pictured strolling past drum-playing protesters blocking Waterloo Bridge to traffic, who vowed to stay until their demands were met, police said they had to respect the campaigners’ right to protest.
Only late yesterday evening did police officers mobilise in numbers to clear the blockades. Environment Secretary Michael Gove called for an end to the demonstrations, saying: ‘We’ve got the message.’
Two police officers dance with Extinction Rebellion demonstrators at a rave at Oxford Circus in London last night
Tory MP Andrew Rosindell said: ‘[Police] should be clearing the streets so Londoners can get to work. Instead they have surrendered the streets to these people.’
After coming under increasing pressure, they swooped into Parliament Square – only for the activists to later return and continue banging drums and chanting ‘extinction rebellion’.
Today, the first people thought to have been charged over this week’s climate change protests in London are expected to appear in court in North London later.
Cathy Eastburn, 51, Mark Ovland, 35, and Luke Watson, 29, are due before magistrates in the capital over their alleged involvement in obstructing trains at Canary Wharf station yesterday morning.
British Transport Police confirmed the trio have been charged with obstructing trains or carriages on the railway by an unlawful act contrary to Section 36 of the Malicious Damage Act 1861.
Eastburn, of Lambeth, South London, Ovland, of Keinton Mandeville, Somerset, and Watson, from Manuden in Essex, are due at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court later.
British Transport Police continue to deploy additional officers throughout the London rail network to deter and disrupt further protest activity affecting the London Underground or other lines.
Robin Boardman-Pattison, 21, who walked off during an interview with Sky News, said activists were planning to step up action on the rail and London Underground network.
‘We will be escalating our disruption throughout the week,’ he said. ‘The impact to the Tube system will grow.’
Asked about the protests on the BBC’s The One Show, Mr Gove said: ‘I think it’s appropriate for people to make their feelings known but I also think, we’ve got the message, we understand that action needs to be taken.’
Since Monday, Waterloo Bridge has been totally closed to traffic, with protesters – orchestrated by the ecological group Extinction Rebellion – planting trees, setting up vegan food stalls and chaining themselves to a truck.
In Oxford Circus protesters took over the streets, parking a bright pink boat on the main intersection. The protests have enraged many commuters and business owners. More than 340 arrests have been made in the capital.
Last night, Chief Superintendent Colin Wingrove, in charge of the policing operation, insisted officers were doing ‘everything in their power’ to contain the protest.
He added: ‘The Met has a duty to balance the rights of those engaged in protest and who are acting within the law, against the needs and rights of Londoners to go about their daily lives with minimum disruption.’
Extinction Rebellion demonstrators stand on Waterloo Bridge in London today with more than 300 people now arrested
Morning breaks today at the Extinction Rebellion campsite at Marble Arch which the protesters are continuing to occupy
Many major routes in London have been blocked by protesters this week, as shown on the map above
At around 8pm it finally appeared that officers were trying to clear the key sites. But critics said they had treated the mostly peaceful protesters with a light touch and demanded action to take back the streets.
How the climate change protests have developed
Protesters begin to gather in London for a ‘festival’ of peaceful action. Their plans, announced by organisers in advance, involve converging on five busy locations in the city and blocking traffic.
Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, publicly lends his support to the cause. Some protesters camp at Hyde Park overnight.
11am – Protesters gather at Parliament Square, blocking traffic, unfurling banners, raising placards and waving flags as speakers address the crowd.
A human roadblock is formed on Waterloo Bridge, halting traffic in both directions. Roads at Oxford Circus and Marble Arch are also blocked.
6.55pm – Police impose a condition on the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations restricting protesters to Marble Arch.
Scotland Yard says more than 50 people were arrested during the day, the majority for breaching the order and five of them over damage to Shell’s headquarters on the South Bank.
Despite the police order, protesters remain at the four locations through the night.
7am – Police announce the number of arrests has passed 100.
1pm – Police remove dozens of protesters from Waterloo Bridge, although the bridge remains blocked.
4pm – A sister protest in Edinburgh sees the North Bridge in the capital blocked off.
4.50pm – London mayor Sadiq Khan says he is ‘extremely concerned’ about protesters’ plans to disrupt the London Underground network on Wednesday.
5.45pm – The total number of people arrested in London passes 200.
10pm – The total number of people arrested in London reaches 290.
Protesters remain at Parliament Square, Marble Arch, Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge overnight.
10.30am – Police disable wifi at Tube stations to prevent protesters coordinating planned disruption.
11am – Protesters climb on to the roof of a DLR train at Canary Wharf station. Another glues himself to it. He is later removed by police.
2pm – A group representing businesses in the West End warns the protests have caused a 25% drop in spending in the area, with £12 million less spent on Tuesday alone.
3pm – Police attempt to clear Waterloo Bridge again, carrying away protesters. Springwatch presenter Chris Packham joins the demonstration at Oxford Circus.
3.30pm – Four protesters glue themselves together outside Jeremy Corbyn’s north London home. One chains themselves to the garden fence with a bike lock.
4.40pm – The Labour leader leaves his home without speaking to the protesters.
6.30pm – Police say the total number of arrests has risen to 340.
6.50pm – Officers arrive in Parliament Square and begin to remove protesters, who are replaced later in the evening.
8pm – Environment Secretary Michael Gove comments, saying it is ‘appropriate for people to make their feelings known’ but ‘we’ve got the message’.
Protesters remain at Parliament Square, Marble Arch, Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge overnight.
Tory MP Sir Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Sir Winston Churchill, said: ‘Not absolutely convinced that our excellent Metropolitan Police are at present maintaining The Queen’s Peace on the streets of London. Absolutely unacceptable that our great city is being held to ransom.’
London mayor Sadiq Khan was criticised after praising the eco-warriors for their ‘co-operation’.
Mr Khan said on Twitter: ‘We’re facing a climate emergency. I fully support the right of protesters to protest on this vital issue, and urge organisers to work with police to ensure their demonstrations are peaceful and lawful and that disruption is kept to a minimum.’
His comments angered John Apter, the chairman of the Police Federation, who told the Telegraph that ‘officers are under enough pressure as it is’.
‘What we don’t need, as well-intended as it might be, is a politician aggravating the situation and making it worse,’ said Mr Apter, whose organisation represents rank-and-file officers.
‘The likes of Sadiq Khan should be supporting the police, especially when we are having to deal with rising crime on our streets.’
XR, who are demanding a meeting with the Government, says direct action is needed to force authorities to act urgently on climate change and wildlife declines and halt a ‘sixth mass extinction’.
TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham joined protesters at Oxford Circus yesterday , saying: ‘I believe the world’s leaders are not acting urgently enough to avert a climate catastrophe. As long as it is peaceful and democratic then they can count on my support.’
But a YouGov poll suggested public opinion has swung against the protests.
The survey of 3,561 British adults showed 52 per cent either ‘somewhat oppose’ or ‘strongly oppose’ the action, compared with 36 per cent who ‘strongly support’ or ‘somewhat support’ it.
Some Londoners were critical of the group’s methods, which are causing disruption to their lives.
Music student Anouska Stahlmann, 20, said her ill mother and elderly grandparents had to walk part of their journey because of the risk of getting stuck in a tunnel while on the Tube.
‘I have no issue with wanting to better the environment and we’re fairly conscious of it as a family,’ she said. ‘Their methods, however, are seriously flawed and are not inclusive of people who want to support the cause. I find it awful they’re disintegrating into a rent-a-mob mentality.’
Last night, Mr Gove said those trying to raise awareness about climate change were ‘moved by high ideas’, but some of their actions had been ‘over the top’.
In remarkable scenes across London:
■ Activists mocked the law by returning to protest hours after being arrested;
■ Police custody cells were left full to bursting, amid claims that Scotland Yard had run out of space;
■ A protester attempted to disrupt train services by gluing himself to a carriage;
■ Others glued themselves to the garden fence at the home of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn;
■ Protesters carried out yoga classes on the car-free roads they had blockaded;
■ Business leaders warned profits had slumped by £12million due to the protests;
■ At least 55 bus routes were shut down and 500,000 commuters were affected;
■ Home Secretary Sajid Javid wrote to Met commissioner Cressida Dick to offer the force ‘whatever support it needs’.
Extinction Rebellion, the Left-wing campaign group behind the demonstrations, has said its protests will escalate over two weeks if its demands are not met.
Officers walk past eco-warriors on drums on Waterloo Bridge yesterday, despite them having paralysed London for three days
Police continued to remove activists at Oxford Circus in London yesterday on the third day of its blockade
TV presenter Chris Packham said yesterday at Oxford Circus that he had come to show support to the protests
Business leaders said the protests have cost £12million in the West End so far. An arrest at Oxford Circus yesterday is pictured
It wants the Government to introduce a legally binding policy to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025.
Activists target Jeremy Corbyn’s fence!
Climate change activists targeted Jeremy Corbyn’s house in a bid to make Labour take a tougher line on the issue.
Two men and two women from the Extinction Rebellion group chained and glued themselves to the Labour leader’s front fence.
Jeremy Corbyn leaves his home past protestors yesterday
The protesters, including one Labour councillor, arrived outside the house in Islington, North London, at 2pm.
They all said they supported him but want his party to go further than its stance, announced in March, of declaring a ‘climate emergency’.
David Lambert, 60, who walked from Stroud in Gloucestershire to join the protests, said: ‘We are here because we are supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and he is the best hope this country has got to get us out of this.’
They brought Easter eggs and flowers as presents, which were initially taken into the house, but later brought back out by Mr Corbyn’s wife Laura Alvarez.
After the protesters had been there for a couple of hours, Mr Corbyn came out of his home, but ignored them.
They left at 4.30pm, saying the Labour leader had offered to meet representatives of Extinction Rebellion next week.
Tory MP Philip Davies described the situation as ‘a complete outrage’, adding: ‘It is about time the authorities got a grip and took whatever action is needed to clear them out of the way.’
There are fears that millions of pounds could be lost by businesses if the protests continue over the Easter bank holiday weekend. Taxi drivers said police had ‘failed in their duty’ to keep the roads open.
Commuters and tourists also complained their journeys had been hampered and that it was hypocritical for environmental campaigners to target public transport networks.
Many of the activists are grandparents, first-time protesters and middle-class workers who said they had flocked to the streets to highlight the ‘climate emergency’.
Dai Davies, who led the Met’s riot squad in West London in the early 90s, said: ‘The Met seems to have slightly been caught with their pants down. They have been very tolerant and I would have been a lot less tolerant of those who cause criminal damage.’
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘The right to protest peacefully is a long-standing tradition and a vital foundation of our democracy.’
It comes as Scotland Yard continue to probe probing footage of three police officers who appeared to be ‘taking part’ in a protest outside the Sultan of Brunei’s mansion in West London.
Campaigners marched to the British home of Hassanal Bolkiah, the 29th Sultan of Brunei, in protest against the country’s new Islamic laws – which make gay sex and adultery punishable by being stoned to death.
The peaceful protest, organised by Ealing Labour Party councillor Lewis Cox, was attended by around 30 other demonstrators, many of whom were seen waving rainbow flags and holding signs mocking the Sultan.
Video of the rally emerged on social media which appeared to show two police officers and a community support officer – who had been on hand to police the demonstration – waving rainbow flags and posing for pictures.
Scotland Yard are now probing whether they broke impartiality regulations, as police rules state that officers must not take part in political activities that could compromise their objectivity.
The softly, softly way to unstick train protesters: Police carefully remove three activists before they are charged
There are some countries where protesters who clambered on top of a train would be given something stronger than safety glasses and a stern talking to from the police.
But in our health and safety-obsessed times, it is the police who must operate with extreme caution.
When smartly-dressed blonde woman Cathy Eastburn, 51, and Luke Watson, 29, in a dark suit and tie, climbed on top of a carriage with a large black banner they delayed dozens of passengers on the Docklands Light Railway.
Police pass safety equipment to Cathy Eastburn, 51, and Luke Watson, 29, as they prepare to remove them from a train yesterday
Watson smiles as the glue is seen on his hand following its removal from the train at Canary Wharf station in East London yesterday
Commuters had gathered to watch as police took two hours to prise bearded Buddhist Mark Ovland, 35, from the train door
But instead of being dragged down, Eastburn, of Lambeth, South London, and Watson, of Manuden, Essex, smiled as specialist teams trained in ‘protest removal’ carefully put safety goggles, helmet, and harnesses on them and lowered them down gently to the platform.
They were then taken away to waiting police vans outside the Canary Wharf station. Commuters had gathered to watch as police took two hours to prise the duo and bearded Buddhist Mark Ovland, 35, from the train.
Mr Ovland, of Keinton Mandeville, Somerset, who earlier this month posed half-naked in the Commons on a climate change demo, had superglued himself to a door with a warning: ‘Do Not Pull Me’.
Police remove protester Ovland after he had glued himself to the window of a DLR train at Canary Wharf station yesterday morning
Eastbur and Watson protesters hold a banner on a Docklands Light Railway train yesterday in Canary Wharf, East London
All three were arrested and held in police custody, before being charged this morning with obstructing trains or carriages on the railway by an unlawful act, contrary to Section 36 of the Malicious Damage Act 1861.
They are all due to appear at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court today.
British Transport Police said it continues to deploy additional officers throughout the London rail network ‘to deter and disrupt further protest activity impacting the London Underground or other lines’.
Freed to cause chaos again: Revolving door as eco-activists go from police cells straight back to demos
Scores of eco-warriors arrested in the capital rejoined the protests hours after being freed from police custody.
As a row broke out about ‘revolving door justice’, a lawyer who was arrested after she superglued her hands to the pavement outside the Shell HQ went on TV and radio to defend the chaos.
Farhana Yamin, who was detained on Tuesday, told Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I totally want to apologise to people using public transport.
Angie Zelter was arrested at Waterloo Bridge on Tuesday (left) before re-joining activists at Oxford Circus yesterday (right)
‘Obviously I use public transport as much as possible and we’re encouraging everyone to use less cars, less emissions, less private emissions.
‘But at the same time we need to take actions which are disruptive and the reason for that is to make sure everyone understands the dangers we’re facing right now.’
But the fact that so many of the arrested protesters were able to rejoin the fray within hours only added to the chaos at some of London’s major landmarks.
Angie Zelter was carried off Waterloo Bridge by police on Tuesday afternoon after she refused to move.
Zack Polanski was arrested on Waterloo Bridge on the second day of the protest at five locations city-wide and returned after being released. The Green Party candidate complained the police provided no vegan food or soy milk
The 76-year-old spent seven hours in a cell at Brixton police station before she was let out and immediately re-joined the Extinction Rebellion strongholds.
But by yesterday morning she appeared relaxed as she sat underneath a bright pink boat which had been placed in the middle of an Oxford Circus junction.
She said: ‘When I was released I came straight back out and went around all the four places where the blockades were still held and checked where they needed more support.
‘I went back to a friend’s house, had a rest then came and joined here at Oxford Circus this morning. I plan on being here for at least two weeks. If I get arrested again, so be it.’
Jeffrey Brewster, who was arrested on Monday, returned to the protest and locked himself to the pink boat at Oxford Circus
Green Party London Assembly candidate Zack Polanski was back on Waterloo Bridge yesterday after being arrested and spending 12 hours at a police station the day before.
The 36-year-old ‘cognitive hypnotist’, who once boasted he had the power to make women’s breasts grow, moaned about the lack of vegan food and soy milk while in custody.
Hypocrisy of globe-trotting ringleader
A privately educated eco-activist who flounced out of a TV interview yesterday has enjoyed a string of foreign holidays despite criticising air travel.
Robin Boardman-Pattison, 21, appeared on Sky News to defend the Extinction Rebellion protests that have brought misery to hundreds of thousands in London.
Robin Boardman-Pattison got up from his seat and walked out of the Sky News studio during an interview with Adam Boulton
But he stormed off the set after presenter Adam Boulton suggested he and his fellow middle-class demonstrators were patronising and self-indulgent.
During the interview Boardman-Pattison, who has twice been charged with criminal damage over previous protests, said his group would like to see aircraft ‘only used in emergencies’.
Boardman-Pattison at the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy
But it later emerged that his Instagram page features a series of photos of him enjoying skiing holidays abroad. He has also posted pictures online of himself in Italy three years ago visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
It is unclear how he travelled on his foreign breaks. But a carbon footprint calculator reveals that if Boardman-Pattison took a 1,800-mile return trip to Pisa by air he would have generated 0.20 tons in CO2 emissions.
A similar journey in an average-sized car would result in 0.46 tons. If he had taken either a bus or train from London to Pisa his CO2 footprint would have been 0.04 tons.
Last year Boardman-Pattison sprayed the words ‘Make Ecocide Law’ over the entrance windows of Bristol magistrates’ court in an Extinction Rebellion demonstration.
He and a fellow protester were arrested after reportedly taking ‘too long’ to wash off the paint under police orders. They pleaded not guilty but were eventually convicted and fined a total of £1,804.
Boardman-Pattison has spent much of his life living in Beckenham, Kent, where his parents Roger and Mary own a £1million four-bedroom home.
He previously attended the £17,500-a-year boys-only Trinity School in Croydon, south London, the Guido Fawkes political website reported.
On Sky News yesterday, he said the Extinction Rebellion protests were to ‘wake the public up’.
But Mr Boulton told the activist: ‘I feel very patronised by you. You’re like the incompetent middle-class, self-indulgent people and you want to tell us how to live our lives.’
Boardman-Pattison then got up from his seat and walked out of the studio.
‘I’m a vegan and they were pretty bad about getting me some vegan food,’ he said. ‘If you are going to arrest 300 activists you have got to think about getting some vegan food ready. There was no soy milk either so I had to have my tea black.’
Charity worker Sarah MacDonald, 52, rejoined the protests after spending seven hours in a cell. She said police were ‘really lovely, really kind’ after she was arrested.
She was taken to Wood Green police station in north London after being forcibly removed from Waterloo Bridge on Tuesday. She had travelled to London with her 19-year-old son, a student.
‘I could see police had circled around my son so I went over to stand next to him. He moved off the street but I stood my ground and they arrested me,’ she said.
‘The police were actually really lovely, really kind. They gave me something to eat, a cup of tea, let me keep my book. My first thought after being released was that I wanted to get back out into the thick of it. I went back to Marble Arch and camped in a tent.’
Jeffrey Brewster, 59, praised the ‘fantastic’ police after he was arrested on Monday evening after refusing to move off Waterloo Bridge. He was taken to a police station where he was kept until Tuesday afternoon.
‘Myself and others had to wait for two hours outside the police station because there simply wasn’t enough room for us inside,’ the retired electrician said.
‘We then had to wait another two hours inside because there weren’t enough resources to process us all. They had 24 cells and we filled up the cells.
‘The police were fantastic. I became very friendly with one of them and heard his life story. I was let out at about 5.30pm on Tuesday. A group of us went to the pub for a couple of pints then came here to Oxford Circus. I camped at Hyde Park overnight.
‘There’s a group of us who have come up from a sleepy Somerset village. I’m going to stay until Friday, but there are others who are staying two weeks.’
Mother-of-three Katerina Hasapopoulos, of Stroud, Gloucestershire, who was arrested on Monday for causing damage to the Shell building, was back out protesting yesterday.
She was held on Monday after activists smashed glass doors at the Shell HQ in Waterloo and spray-painted graffiti on to the building.
Yesterday she returned to Waterloo Bridge, where protesters have been told they face arrest if they do not comply with a condition to continue demonstrations in the Marble Arch area.
‘As soon as I was out of the cell I went and served some food at Marble Arch, then came here,’ she said. ‘I left my three children, all under six, at home with their father to do this, because their future depends on it.’
Caroline Vincent, 56, who was arrested on Waterloo Bridge on Tuesday, said she planned to return to protest at Parliament Square.
‘They arrested me for obstructing the highway. They were very polite, I was equally polite,’ she said.
‘I spent the night at Sutton police station [in south west London] and was released this morning. I will be back on the streets tonight. I’m on Parliament Square duty.’
Grandmother Lucy Craig, 71, said she also plans to rejoin the protests after she was arrested at Oxford Circus on Monday.
‘If they arrest me again, so be it, I’ve got nothing to lose,’ she said. The grandmother was arrested after joining the protest at Oxford Circus on Monday with members of her family.
She was taken to Kingston police station – miles from her north London home – but described the officers as ‘charming’.
Forget Brexit, this lot’s making Britain a global laughing stock: ROBERT HARDMAN on eco-warriors’ London takeover
With the politicians off for Easter, some might imagine Britain has been granted some respite from international self-embarrassment. Well, think again.
We might be enjoying a couple of weeks without our MPs but that image of a rudderless, incompetent country is now being ably maintained by, among other things, a pink yacht, currently parked across one of London’s most famous intersections, and the transformation of one of the capital’s most important bridges into a yoga mat.
Now entering Day Four, the so-called ‘Extinction Rebellion’ is settling down nicely as our new national joke.
Waterloo Bridge became the scene for yoga parties yesterday despite Scotland Yard officers ordering crowds to disperse
Between them, a handful of earnest, peaceful and impressively organised eco-warriors have managed to bring the capital to a standstill while the police make inconsequential arrests and the other 99.9 per cent of the population are left asking: who, exactly, is in charge here?
Among yesterday’s highlights were one group who shut down the Docklands Light Railway and a quartet who glued themselves to Jeremy Corbyn’s house (though they later unglued themselves and said they were very sorry). Today, we are promised widespread chaos on the Tube network.
Who decided that people should be allowed to enjoy an extended camping holiday at central London landmarks? Who agreed that people should be allowed to build plywood lavatory cubicles in the middle of London’s Oxford Street? They are not even public ones, it transpires, but only available to those with the key.
Who said that more than 50 bus routes should be blocked with impunity? Who gave permission for a musical stage to be erected indefinitely across both carriageways on Waterloo Bridge, not to mention a skateboarding ramp?
London has seen protests of every stripe over the years, some of them violent. However, they have tended to come and go in the course of a day or two.
This one, which, it must be said, remains peaceful, is now settling in for the long haul. The organisers say that they are preparing for an open-ended stand-off with the police until the Government agrees to their core demands.
Environmental campaigners smiled as they protested in the centre of Oxford Circus in London yesterday afternoon
Since these include supplanting Parliament with a ‘citizens’ assembly’ and the end of capitalism, it might be a very long wait. Yet how much longer is London prepared to have some of its most important thoroughfares sealed off to traffic by a self-appointed cadre of we-know-best activists?
I arrive at Oxford Circus – the crossroads of Britain’s two best-known shopping thoroughfares, Oxford Street and Regent Street – to find a 20ft bright pink sailing boat on a trailer parked in the middle. Around 20 recumbent protesters are chained to its trailer. A couple of hundred others stand around it swaying to tunes played by a grey-bearded disc jockey who has set up his sound system in the boat’s cockpit.
He fires off revolutionary slogans in between his Radio 2-style repertoire of hits from the Seventies and Eighties. ‘We’re here to tell the politicians: F*** you!’ he shouts, to a few lame cheers.
It is the middle of the afternoon. It’s wholly inappropriate on a road junction next to the world’s largest toy shop, Hamleys, as a steady stream of children pass by.
But the police do not bat an eyelid. Most stand around ‘monitoring the situation’. I find one police sergeant politely enduring an interminable lecture on the state of the planet’s permafrost by a pimply teenage know-all in a Green Party bib.
I wait and wait for the policeman to ask him to move on but, instead, he asks him a question about tree-planting.
The protestors on Waterloo Bridge, pictured yesterday, are settling in for the long haul and preparing for a stand-off
The police are certainly keen to keep the temperature down. All are in soft hats and hi-vis vests rather than riot gear.
Every now and then, a team of seven or eight move in and pick up one of the protesters lying by the boat. Most of their targets go quietly, having volunteered for arrest in advance of these protests.
Many will be back again as soon as they are released. There are none of the combative anarchist element who trashed Oxford Circus during the May Day anti-capitalist protests a few years back.
There are no balaclavas, no finger-jabbing conspiracy theorists aggressively filming the police or the media. It is, largely, a combination of fresh-faced college activists and a lot of grey-haired people in sensible walking boots who look ready to ramble.
‘I’ve only been on three demonstrations in my entire life,’ says Bob Hill, 65, a retired civil engineer from Abergavenny, who genuinely knows his stuff about pollution levels and global warming. ‘This is so important that we just have to do everything to make the politicians listen. And it’s no use having a one-day protest. It’s got to go on.’
Here, too, is Robin Boardman-Pattison, 21, one of the organisers. He has taken a year’s break from his modern languages degree course at Bristol to focus on this cause. Viewers may have seen him walk out of a heated television interview with Sky’s Adam Boulton yesterday. ‘He wasn’t asking me proper questions,’ Robin explained. ‘The media need to take this seriously.’
He had no problems whatsoever with the police, he went on, merely with the Government. ‘We are a world-leading economy and we have to set an example. And we will maintain our programme of economic disruption until the politicians listen.’ How does this win hearts and minds? And why on earth make all this noise when the entire political class is on holiday and thus cannot hear?
Extinction Rebellion demonstrators continue to occupy Oxford Circus in London with their ‘tell the truth’ boat
‘This is an international movement and this was the date that was set in advance,’ says Robin, from Beckenham, Kent.
I explain that a lot of people look on all this as a lot of posturing by an arrogant middle-class minority who are inconveniencing millions and achieving nothing.
‘A lot of middle-class people also know that we need to cut back on our consumption,’ he replies.
Over on Waterloo Bridge, there are similar scenes. The mass yoga session from earlier in the day has finished. Many just lie in the sun reading a book, as homebound commuters weave past their rucksacks and the potted plant displays which some demonstrators have erected. Some office workers make little attempt to hide their contempt for the people who have added half an hour to their commute but there is no abuse.
Again, there has been a slow trickle of arrests here too, although they do all add up.
By the end of the day, the Met puts the total thus far at 340. But if most of those are simply going back to their original spots straight afterwards, the police strategy seems a little flawed.
‘It’s about proportionality,’ one police officer explains when I ask why it is permissible to park a boat, trailer and toilet block in Oxford Street for days on end but not permissible for an ordinary person even to drive a car down it.
‘If we tried to move everyone, there’d be a riot.’
At some point, in the not too distant future, there is going to be a riot if they don’t.
DAVID BLUNKETT: Why hasn’t the full force of the law been used against these eco anarchists who fill me with contempt?
Sorry, but I don’t need any lectures from any Johnny-come-lately on the urgent need to tackle climate change.
Eleven years ago I was one of more than 600 MPs who voted to pass the Climate Change Act, committing Britain to slash carbon emissions by 80 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050. I am committed to much more ambitious action in future.
But by causing mayhem in London’s transport system over the past three days, the group Extinction Rebellion has not won my sympathy. On the contrary, it has left me feeling outraged.
Police officers remove a protester as activists from the Extinction Rebellion campaign group blocking Waterloo Bridge yesterday
I feel angry and irritated that it has chosen to make people’s lives a misery. By yesterday, because of road blockages, 55 bus routes had been suspended, inconveniencing 500,000 passengers.
While the group pulled back from trying to close the Tube network, it has not withdrawn the threat — saying that it wanted to see how yesterday’s disruption of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) went before making a decision on whether to block the Underground system.
By yesterday the police had failed substantially to clear any of the areas affected by the protests. Attempting to move protesters from one area to another, as they have been trying to do, simply doesn’t work.
Last night, they appeared to be making some attempt to clear protesters from Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge and Parliament Square, yet these vital thoroughfares have been blocked for three days, which is simply not acceptable when people need to go about their business.
As Home Secretary between 2001 and 2004 I had to deal with the anti-globalisation protests and the Reclaim the Streets movement. I had to make decisions as to how far you allow these protests to go.
What I learned was that you had to be tough. The full force of the law needs to be used against those who have been warned and yet who persist with their anti-social protests.
Over the past few days, police have arrested more than 340 people, yet many of them have been released and allowed to go straight back to join the protests.
The protesters are treating it as some kind of game. What we need is a firm hand and decisive action. Without it, these anarchists will see all the publicity they are enjoying and will engage in this kind of action again and again.
Metropolitan Police officers lead away a demonstrator near Parliament Square yesterday as the protests continue in the capital
It is hardly as if the police have had no warning about these protests. Extinction Rebellion has been blocking streets and bridges since November. It has repeated its tactics on a regular basis.
On this occasion, police held meetings in advance with the protesters. They knew who was behind the protests, where and when they were going to be held and the methods the protesters were going to use.
So why have the Met not provided a stronger response as the great metropolis of London has ground to a halt? And where is the Home Secretary?
The problem with anarchists — which is what Extinction Rebellion are — is that by disrupting the lives and wellbeing of their fellow men and women they damage the cause they are trying to advance. Instead of engaging in debate and dialogue they have turned against them the very people they are trying to persuade.
They are using tactics — bullying and intimidation — which in any other context they would condemn. They have disrupted emergency services and put lives at risk.
Extinction Rebellion says it has no option but to cause chaos because we are facing a climate ‘emergency’. Yet over the past three days, as ever in a large city, there have been dozens of genuine emergencies which have required ambulances, fire engines and police cars. The actions of the anarchists have made it much more difficult for emergency vehicles to respond and have diverted valuable police resources.
Not only that, their actions have resulted in deeply perverse outcomes. They claim to be campaigning to cut pollution, but by choking up a capital city and causing traffic jams, they have achieved exactly the opposite: increasing pollution and damaging the environment.
Climate change protestors stand on top of a DLR train at Canary Wharf station in East London on the third day of the protest yesterday
You don’t have to be highly intelligent to work out that, by blocking bus routes and disrupting trains, you discourage people from using public transport and force them to take to their cars to find a way round the jams.
Bankers who normally commute by DLR were reported to be resorting to taxis to get around — spewing out diesel fumes in the process.
As the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: ‘It is absolutely crucial to get more people using public transport, as well as walking and cycling, if we are to tackle this climate emergency.’
Extinction Rebellion has launched its assault not on the politicians it is trying to address — the Commons and the Lords are both in recess this week — but the poor men and women who are just trying to make a living.
Many fear their Easter breaks are in jeopardy. Businesses face severe losses. According to West End shops, hundreds of millions of pounds could be lost to the London economy.
These anarchists seem to think they own the issue of climate change, yet they have blithely ignored the serious efforts that are being made to reduce pollution more generally. Last week, for example, the first phase of London’s new ultra-low emissions zone came into effect, banning the most polluting vehicles from the city centre.
There has been huge investment in renewable energy, improving insulation in buildings, promoting hybrid and electric cars and tackling carbon emissions in many other ways. UK carbon emissions, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, have fallen by 44 per cent since 1990.
These are achievements which Extinction Rebellion should surely be praising. Yet the anarchists ignore them, and instead try to make out that governments, over many years, have done nothing, while only they have recognised the seriousness of the threat of climate change.
Unlawful protests in a democracy ultimately achieve nothing. Just look how Occupy the Streets failed in its campaign to bring down capitalism. If climate change protesters want an example of how they should be conducting their campaign, they should instead look at the Make Poverty History movement, with which I worked when I was Home Secretary.
The organisers didn’t break the law. Instead, they organised peaceful demos and staged concerts around the world. They conducted their campaign in a manner which persuaded rather than alienated — and as a result they achieved their objectives. They persuaded world leaders to agree to debt relief for developing countries and also contributed to efforts tackling climate change.
It fills me with contempt to hear the protesters ‘apologising’ to the public for causing disruption. People who make no effort to engage in public debate don’t deserve our support. They claim to care about the public, but frankly they don’t care one bit.
Extinction Rebellion wants us to think that it is central to the fight against climate change, but it is rapidly turning itself into an utter irrelevance. The real work tackling climate change is being done with those who engage in proper political debate, not those who engage in childish acts of sabotage.