Climate change activists have demonstrated in London for the third straight day, as two protesters glued themselves to the roof of a train, others shut down major traffic routes and police confirmed they have made more than 300 arrests since Monday.
The Extinction Rebellion group organized the protests, seeking to highlight “disastrous inaction” on climate change.
Demonstrators have blocked some of central London’s main traffic arteries since Monday — including at Marble Arch, Parliament Square, Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus and Waterloo Bridge — and on Wednesday began a day of “light” disruption of the city’s overground train network.
A pair of demonstrators at Canary Wharf station, in the heart of one of London’s financial districts, glued themselves to the roof of a train and also unfurled a banner reading “Climate Emergency.”
Police officers then climbed up onto the train to unstick the protesters, who were put into harnesses and gently lowered by the police to the station floor.
A third protestor, who had glued his hand on the side of a train, was also removed in a short-lived yet polite protest.
Extinction Rebellion said that Wednesday’s transport disruption is called “The Pause,” which aims to “create moments in time when humanity stops and fully considers the extent of the harm we have done and are doing to life on earth.”
The Wi-Fi network at underground stations in London has been switched off in an effort to prevent climate change activists from coordinating their protests, Britain’s Press Association reported.
While spirits remained high among protestors, authorities expressed some weariness with the demonstrations. London Mayor Sadiq Khan told Sky News that he was frustrated that protestors had disrupted London’s transport system.
“I’d say to the organizers: Please work with the police, please work with TFL (London’s travel authority), to make sure you minimize disruption caused to those trying to get about their business in our city,” he said.
His comments come after the New West End company, which represents 600 retailers and restaurants in London, said retailers lost $15m (£12m) in two days during the protests.
Over 300 arrests
London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed on Wednesday morning that they have made over 300 arrests in relation to the protests since Monday.
Extinction Rebellion was braced for further arrests on Wednesday, after police imposed an order for protestors on Waterloo Bridge and Oxford Circus to continue their demonstrations in the Marble Arch area.
“We are in the process of moving demonstrators on Waterloo Bridge. Those that do not comply may be arrested,” officers said in a statement before a handful of protestors were bundled into police vans at the bridge blockade.
Extinction Rebellion say this set of protests will take place in at least 80 cities and more than 33 countries, including Boston, Denmark and Australia. The organizers hope London’s protests will continue for two weeks.
The group, which is founded by British activists, has three aims: to get governments to declare a “climate emergency,” reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025, and for citizens’ assemblies to lead the government on climate and ecological justice.
It is supported by a slew of academics, scientists and celebrities — including the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, British actress Emma Thompson and American actor Willem Dafoe — has claimed that more than 3,000 people will take part in Wednesday’s protests.
‘Never been an activist before’
In Oxford Circus on Wednesday morning, dozens of activists flocked around a bright pink boat, daubed with the words “Tell the Truth,” as police vans gathered at the corner.
“I have never been arrested or charged before, so this is new for me,” Kate Bull, 58, told CNN on Wednesday as she locked arms with another activist she only met an hour before — bracing for any new round of arrests.
Behind the boat, Daniel Williams, a 41-year-old tradesman who traveled down from Wales to take part in the protests, told CNN that he had “never been an activist before.” Everything changed when a friend told him last year about Extinction Rebellion.
“Years of one day marches and writing to your MPs has only led to CO2 emissions going up by 60% since the 1990s,” Williams said. “We don’t want to disrupt people’s lives, but it is the only way we can get heard,” he said.
The genteel crowd of protestors, which included university students, professionals who took time off work, and retirees, was testament to Extinction Rebellion’s appeal. At least three people told CNN that it was the first time they had protested.
Bystanders are encouraged to join the protest, which includes a “Welcome tent” — replete with legal advice and sign-up sheets — as well as a “Wellness tent”, which has snacks, hot water bottles and a sleeping area.
“I feel the climate is not getting the attention it deserves,” Oliver Cowden, 20, told CNN. He had come to protest alongside his mother, Tamsin, who had locked herself onto the side of the boat.
Susannah Trevelyan, who claimed to be the great, great, great granddaughter of English naturalist Charles Darwin, told CNN said that she was willing to be arrested for the cause. Adding that if Darwin were alive today, he would be “appalled by the huge extinction we are causing … the worst extinction event in 65 million years.”
By Wednesday afternoon, the crowd’s size had swelled to the hundreds as police officers attempted to remove protestors who had locked arms under and around the boat.
“Police are moving in at #OxfordCircus — please come and support if you can!” Extinction Rebellion wrote on Twitter.
Williams, who started an Extinction Rebellion branch in Aberystwyth, Wales, added that the group’s non-violent demonstrations were inspired by civil rights giants like “Martin Luther King, Gandhi and the Suffragettes.
“We are going to stay here [Oxford Circus] for as long as it takes,” he added.