London climate protest arrests top 700

Updated April 21, 2019

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LONDON: Police officers arrest and carry away a climate change activist from a demonstration blocking Waterloo Bridge on Saturday.—AFP
LONDON: Police officers arrest and carry away a climate change activist from a demonstration blocking Waterloo Bridge on Saturday.—AFP

LONDON: London police say more than 710 people have been arrested and some 28 have been charged since climate change protests began earlier this week in the British capital.

“As of 10am on Saturday ... more than 718 people have been arrested since Monday. Twenty-eight people have been charged,” London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

The Extinction Rebellion protests started on Monday and have at times paralysed parts of London, with peaceful demonstrations at Waterloo Bridge, Oxford Circus and other key landmarks.

Demonstrators were continuing to block Waterloo Bridge in the city and the central Oxford Circus junction despite the removal by police of the pink sailing boat which had acted as a natural focal point for the movement.

The protests are organised by the campaign group Extinction Rebellion, which was established last year in Britain by academics and has become one of the world’s fastest-growing environmental movements.

Campaigners want governments to declare a climate and ecological emergency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025, halt biodiversity loss and be led by new “citizens’ assemblies on climate and ecological justice”.

London police have taken a cautious approach rather than a massive show of force to remove the demonstrators, saying they respect the right to peaceful protest.

They still had to ask neighbouring forces for some 200 additional officers to help cope with the situation, and many officers had their weekend leaves cancelled.

Police have also been trying to confine the protests to one site in London, at Marble Arch on the corner of Hyde Park, but the protesters have ignored the threat of arrest and continued to block other sites.

The police have not said if or how they will clear the hundreds of demonstrators from other locations.

“We are trying our best to give the businesses a chance to return to ‘business as usual’,” police said. “One thing that is unusual about this demonstration is the willingness of those participating to be arrested and also their lack of resistance to the arrests.”

The large number of arrests has created a “logistical problem” for the police in terms of cell space and also the “wider criminal justice system”.

On Friday star Emma Thompson joined activists at Oxford Circus, at the heart of one of the capital’s most popular shopping districts, to read poetry praising Earth’s bounties.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2019