21 april 2019

Climate change protesters say they are 'pausing' disruption after more than 800 arrests

The leaders of Extinction Rebellion have announced they are switching from “disruptive tactics” to “political negotiations” as they enter a second week of campaigning to have the Government declare a climate emergency

Jamie Johnson The Telegraph, 21 April 2019

Climate change protesters will meet with the Metropolitan police and “pause” the disruption that has plagued London for a week, resulting in more than 800 arrests.

The leaders of Extinction Rebellion have announced they are switching from “disruptive tactics” to “political negotiations” as they enter a second week of campaigning to have the Government declare a climate emergency.

The move comes as the number of arrests made in connection with the demonstrations reached 831, with 42 people charged.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that more than 9,000 police officers had been responding to the protests - nearly a third of the Met’s entire force.

He had earlier been accused of giving his tacit support to the campaigners, with John Apter, chair of the Police Federation, telling The Telegraph: “What we don’t need, as well-intended as it might be, is a politician aggravating the situation and making it worse. The likes of Sadiq Khan should be supporting the police, especially when we are having to deal with rising crime on our streets.”

Mr Khan has now changed tack and said that the protests were now putting “Londoners’ safety at risk”.

“I’m extremely concerned about the impact the protests are having on our ability to tackle issues like violent crime if they continue any longer,” he said.

“My message to all protesters today is clear: you must now let London return to business as usual.”

An email sent to campaigners and seen by The Telegraph said “being able to “pause” a rebellion shows that we are organised and a long-term political force to be reckoned with.

“This will give XR leverage as we enter into negotiations with those in power.”

They have called for meetings with the Metropolitan Police and the Mayor so that they can carry on their protests at Old Palace Yard, outside Parliament, but leave other sites, including Waterloo Bridge.

Yesterday, Parliament square was one of the areas targeted and cleared by police in an aggressive crackdown to remove protesters, who have been told to assemble in Marble Arch instead.

Two people managed to scale trees overlooking Westminster and unveil a banner. They were later brought down.

But there was hope that an end to the chaotic scenes as a spokesperson for the Met said that they remained in frequent contact with the organisers to ensure that the serious disruption to Londoners is brought to a close as soon as possible and that only lawful and peaceful protests continue.

A police insider said: “A formal meeting is something we would certainly welcome if it means halting the disruption.”

However, yesterday, thousands of protesters remained on the streets, enjoying the Easter Sunday sun and a rallying speech from TV presenter Chris Packham.

The naturalist urged Prime Minister Theresa May and Environment Secretary Michael Gove to "come and say hello" and demonstrate that they could be trusted with protecting the environment.

Speaking from the top of a bus stop on Waterloo Bridge, he said: "Our Government has been on holiday but tomorrow they come back full of Easter eggs.

"And before they press that blasted Brexit button again, we must ask them to think about something altogether more pressing: saving our planet."

On Saturday afternoon, police managed to successfully clear demonstrators in the junction at Oxford Circus, which was reopened to traffic, while dozens of officers carried out arrests on Waterloo Bridge and slowly removed campaigners who had attached themselves to a truck acting as a stage.

On Sunday evening, Waterloo Bridge was still being occupied by Extinction Rebellion campaigners, as was Marble Arch where 16-year-old Greta Thumberg, organiser of the global school strikes against climate change, was due to address crowds.

But the group announced that it will no longer hold a picnic on the Westway by Edgware Road Underground station, which would have blocked traffic on the busy A-road on the last day of the long Easter weekend.

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