Extinction Rebellion (XR) protestors have converged on Parliament Square to begin 10 days of disruption and civil disobedience as MPs returned to the Commons today.
Police made at least 90 arrests as thousands of XR demonstrators marched through central London to Westminster to demand politicians back the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (CEE Bill).
The protests echo last year’s Autumn Uprising that saw XR paralyse parts of the capital across 10 days to raise environmental and climate change concerns. Organisers drew criticism after XR activists targeted commuter trains during the 2019 uprising and have said that 2020’s focus is on institutions of power.
Met Police ‘give permission’ for protests to continue
The Express reports that the Metropolitan Police has given permission for the protests to continue despite coronavirus concerns. The police have imposed restrictions under section 14 of the Public Order Act, only allowing gatherings away from the main roads at Parliament Square Gardens between 8am and 7pm and banning boats, vehicles, trailers or “other structures” from joining the procession.
“The reason we have implemented these conditions is that we know these protests may result in serious disruption to local businesses, commuters and our communities and residents, which I will not tolerate,” said Met commander Jane Connors.
Met police officers carried out numerous arrests around Parliament Square today as protestors sat in the middle of roads and intersections to block traffic around the UK’s centre of political power as MPs returned after the summer recess.
Protests in Cardiff and Manchester
Green party MP Caroline Lucas told the crowd she will table the climate and ecological emergency bill (CEE Bill), and, directly addressing the protesters while motioning at the Palace of Westminster, told them: “Thank you for showing more political leadership than that place over there.”
Other XR protests took place in Manchester and Cardiff with demonstrators encouraged to wear face coverings and adhere to social distancing. Last week XR revealed it has been warned that it could face being fined £10,000 under coronavirus legislation for organising a gathering of more than 30 people.
Donnachadh McCarthy, an environmental auditor, campaigner and author, writing in today’s Independent states: “Whilst we are distracted by the pandemic tragedy, the UK Treasury and Bank of England are borrowing billions of pounds and using it to bail out industries which destroy our planet.”
The group itself states the CEE Bill will force the government to “act fast” to account “for our entire carbon footprint while actively conserving nature here and overseas.”
Government, media and banks are XR targets
Kumi Naidoo – who was international executive director of Greenpeace International from 2009-2016 and secretary general of Amnesty International from 2018-2020 said: “This [CEE] Bill outlines the path needed to avoid the catastrophe outlined by the United Nations General-Secretary António Guterres in 2018. Based on the accepted science of the IPCC, it is farsighted aiming to protect those at risk now and in the future.”
McCarthy’s column signals how the remainder of the protests will progress as the “government, media and the banks will all be targets for peaceful and direct actions over the coming week. Come and join us.”