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Extinction Rebellion protest
Protesters in Parliament Square, London demanding change to climate actionvia Twitter (@_HWright)

Climate rebellion: thousands of environmental activists swarm London

Extinction Rebellion has instigated peaceful acts of civil disobedience across the capital, bringing the city to a halt

Today (April 15), thousands of demonstrators take part in a “climate rebellion”, shutting down central London by blocking traffic and setting up blockades to demand action against the climate crisis.

Waterloo Bridge, Marble Arch, Piccadilly Circus, Parliament Square, and Oxford Circus have been blocked by protesters as part of a weeks-long ‘festival’ of action. Waterloo Bridge has been blocked off with lorries, and plants and trees have been positioned along the stretch of road. Protesters are erecting tents as they begin long-term occupying, and a half-pipe for skateboarding has been set up. A roadblock has been put in place at Marble Arch junction, as well as a protesters camp in the near by Hyde Park. Oxford Circus saw demonstrators park a pink sailing boat with the words ‘Tell the Truth’ on its site, grinding traffic to a standstill. Parliament Square and Piccadilly Circus demos are also underway. Protesters range across the young and old, including families, with many reporting a community, almost party-like atmosphere.

At least four activists have reportedly been arrested for vandalism at the London headquarter of oil company Shell. The group say they want to make Shell “look dirty” to “highlight their ecocidal practices”. Two protesters remain glued on to cracked windows at the building.

Spearheaded by activist group Extinction Rebellion, a week of performances, talks, workshops, and food has been planned, with hopes to extend it until the government agrees to discuss terms. The group says at least 80 cities in over 33 countries will also hold protests in collective solidarity – a Berlin demonstration is currently underway outside the Reichstag.

Currently, multiple buses are on diversion and major delays are expected throughout the day, at least.

Charlotte Richardson-Andrews, a protester at the Waterloo picket, told Dazed: “I was sick of feeling like I was totally powerless in the face of climate change, sick of feeling alone with it, losing sleep over it. XR feels like our best hope right now – a global community of peaceful protesters who really know their shit and have a solid list of very workable demands and solutions.

“I want to make the news. I want climate change and biodiversity loss to be front page news until the powers that be take our demands seriously. I also want this to be am example to others. I want people to feel emboldened to join XR, to show up, make noise, challenge the system. I think a lot of people are scared to make a spectacle of themselves by attending actions like this. We need to get over that embarrassment real quick if we want to survive as a species.”

Extinction Rebellion is calling on the government to take immediate action on the ecological crisis, including a plan to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025, and establish a citizens’ assembly that would create an emergency plan of action.

Earlier this year, over 6,000 people took part in protests that blocked five of London’s bridges, where 85 people were arrested. 

“I want to make the news. I want climate change and biodiversity loss to be front page news until the powers that be take our demands seriously” – Charlotte Richardson-Andrews, Rebellion Day protester

“Under our current system, we are headed for disaster,” a statement from the group reads. “Catastrophic climate breakdown will cause food collapse, destroy communities, kill millions, and render many more homeless. Mass extinction of wild species will lead to ecological collapse, and when they go, we go. Destruction of natural habitats will lead to genocide of indigenous peoples and the loss of our planet’s life support systems. 

“It’s not too late to change course – a better world is possible. We know how to get there – the solutions exist, and we have the technology to take us to a better future. But governments are consistently failing to take the urgent and decisive action that will save us. 

“If the system will not change, then we must change the system. It is our sacred duty to rebel in order to protect our homes, our future, and the future of all life on Earth.”

The widespread protest is drawing comparison to the Occupy London protests in 2011 and 2012, which culminated around London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Extinction Rebellion has warned participants that there is a threat of arrest for taking part in non-violent civil disobedience, and has asked anyone attending to read their legal advice and refrain from drugs or alcohol during the occupation. A police presence is in place at every spot in London.