Climate Protesters in London Occupy Major Landmarks
LONDON — Climate activists glued themselves to the top of a London commuter train, blocked a major bridge at rush hour by staging a group yoga class and occupied four major London landmarks for a third day on Wednesday as part of a global civil disobedience campaign that demands government action on climate change.
Major London road junctions and tourist sites, including Marble Arch, Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge, have been at a standstill since Monday, as hundreds of environmental activists have staged events, formed roadblocks and camped out in colorful tents in scenes reminiscent of the Occupy movement of the past.
Further confrontations were expected after the Metropolitan Police announced their intention to limit the protests only to the area around Marble Arch, and began working to remove protesters from their encampments at Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge.
“We will not leave until our concerns are addressed,” said Cressida Thomas, a student from Bristol, after the police warned her to move her tent in Oxford Circus. “That could take weeks or months. The more of us they arrest the better, it will only bring more attention to the cause.’’
That seemed to be a general theme among the protesters and their leaders.
Protesters at a blockade of Waterloo Bridge in London on Tuesday.CreditLeon Neal/Getty Images
“Our aim is to cause major disruption until the government takes action,” said Luis Silva, a member of the activist group Extinction Rebellion, which organized the protests.
“We’re not trying to be a nuisance and bother commuters, but we need to shake people for them to understand that this is a global emergency and we all have to participate to avert the impending disaster.”
More than 300 demonstrators have been arrested this week, but that did not deter hundreds of activists from camping overnight and blocking the London intersections on Wednesday morning.
Additional protesters were arrested on Wednesday after several activists ignored warnings to move into the designated areas, and instead played dead, forcing the police to drag them away.
Extinction Rebellion says the protests in London are part of demonstrations organized in over 80 cities across 33 countries that will be held in the next few days.
The group has three core demands of the British government: to “tell the truth” by declaring a climate and ecological emergency; to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025; and to create a citizens’ assembly to lead on climate issues.
The campaigners have staged smaller protests in London in recent months, gluing their buttocks to Plexiglass security panels in the galleries above the floor of Parliament, shutting down bridges and pouring buckets of fake blood outside the prime minister’s residence. But they say they decided to escalate the demonstrations after their efforts seemed to have little effect.
Whether intentional or not, their cause received a lift on Wednesday from Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, who warned the financial sector that it faced an existential threat from climate change and urged international banks to take immediate steps to prepare.
“As financial policymakers and prudential supervisors we cannot ignore the obvious physical risks before our eyes,” Mr. Carney wrote in a joint article with Francois Villeroy, the governor of the Banque De France, that was published in The Guardian newspaper.
Citing the threats to insurance companies and banks from the recent spate of storms, floods, fires and other natural disasters, he said, “Climate Change is a global problem, which requires global solutions, in which the whole financial sector has a central role to play.”
Extinction Rebellion had planned to escalate its campaign on Wednesday by disrupting the London underground network, but later backed off, fearing that would alienate the public.
“Public transport is part of the solution to the problem of climate change, so it doesn’t make much sense for us to target it,” said Laura Talbot, a retired teacher, who traveled four hours from Yorkshire to participate in the protests with her granddaughter.
“We need to keep escalating the demonstration to force politicians to address the issue, but there are other ways to do it,” she said, as she sat under a bright red banner at the group’s campsite in Marble Arch that read, “This is emergency.”
Despite many activists being opposed to disrupting the underground, two demonstrators climbed atop a train at Canary Wharf, a financial hub, and another man glued himself to the train’s window.
Another four activists glued themselves together outside the home of Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the main opposition Labour Party, in an effort to get him to engage more with their campaign.
“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,” one of the protesters, David Lambert, told The Guardian.“But we need system change and a transformation of our consumer economy, and we know he is a person who has the authority and power to deliver that.”
Officials with London’s Metropolitan Police said on Tuesday that they were trying to find the right balance between permitting peaceful protests and limiting disruption to communities and businesses.
“At this time, ongoing demonstrations are causing serious disruptions to public transport, local businesses and Londoners who wish to go about their daily business,” the chief superintendent, Colin Wingrove, said in a statement.