Officers have begun to clear protesters from Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge as the Metropolitan police try to restore normality to parts of London where “Extinction Rebellion” members have been campaigning against climate change.
Extinction Rebellion has called for non-violent civil disobedience to force the British government to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025 and stop what it calls a global climate crisis.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick told BBC News that the protests had caused “miserable disruption”.
She said there were now 1,500 police officers, up from 1,000 previously, working to clear the roads.
The police reiterated that protests were only allowed to continue at Marble Arch.
“I’ve got one message for the protesters and that is: Please, go to Marble Arch where you can protest lawfully. Stop your unlawful protest, and if you don’t want to go to Marble Arch, then go home,” Dick said.
On Friday, well-known actor 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
Crowds clapped and cheered as activists who were chained to the road at Oxford Circus were lifted into police vans yesterday.
Police drafted in extra officers to deal with the protests, which began on Monday and have resulted in more than 700 arrests.
Officers on the ground said they would try to clear Oxford Circus by the end of the day.
Scores of police moved on to Waterloo Bridge, where protesters have also been based all week.
Video footage showed classical musicians playing from a stage surrounded by police, while other officers marched on to the bridge in a phalanx.
An Extinction Rebellion spokesman at the scene said that there were more than 100 officers on the bridge, with 14 police vans and a large tow truck at the south end and more vans at the north.
“It looks like they are making a concerted effort to clear the bridge,” the spokesman said.
A video of police officers dragging demonstrators along the ground in an operation to remove a pink boat from Oxford Circus on Friday prompted concerns about police tactics against protesters, who have been belligerently polite and apologetic throughout.
Officers used angle grinders to cut through the bars below the hull of the Berta Caceres boat, named after the murdered Honduran environmental activist, to which protesters had chained and glued themselves.
The intersection was calm yesterday as bank holiday shoppers mingled with protesters, asking questions about the movement and its tactics.
Of the 718 people arrested in connection with the campaign, which has included protests at Marble Arch and Parliament Square, 28 have been charged.
The Met said most of the arrests had been for breaching section 14 orders, which are in place in the protest areas.
The force announced that on Friday that it had renewed the order requiring protesters to clear Waterloo Bridge for a further three days.
Extinction Rebellion designated Oxford Circus a place to discuss the campaign with members of the public who have questions.
Michelle, 30, and Lee, 31, from St Helens in Merseyside, were eager to speak to activists during an Easter break in London after watching the campaign unfold on TV during the week.
“I agree with some of the points but I disagree with the methods,” Michelle said after a lengthy discussion with an activist, adding that the movement appeared quite London-centric.
“It wouldn’t happen in St Helens,” added her partner.
Milo, seven, was in Oxford Circus with his father and said he thought the protests were a good thing.
If climate change is not avoided, “it’s going to get so hot like Venus. Everyone is going to die and there’s going to be a total extinction.
“If the government listens, they might fly less planes and drive less cars,” he added.
Nick, a 56-year-old civil servant who was chained to the road at Oxford Circus, said it was “an unusual way to spend his annual leave”.
He said he was not happy to be there and he did not take the possibility of being arrested lightly “but I’m going to be here as long as it takes”.
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