Belfast Telegraph

Eco group behind London protests to target Belfast

Environmental campaigners protest in the centre of Oxford Circus, London
Environmental campaigners protest in the centre of Oxford Circus, London
People protest in New York City
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

Environmental group Extinction Rebellion (XR) will be bringing their protests to the streets of Belfast on Friday to highlight climate change concerns.

The group has been conducting a campaign of civil disruption in London since Monday.

Belfast-based organiser Albert Seymour said the protest is just the start in Northern Ireland, with the group calling on government to take urgent action to help "minimise the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse".

Around 100 people are expected to take part in the "engagement and awareness day" in Belfast city centre, but protesters say if their numbers grow they could step up their "non-violent civil disruption".

That could mean blocking roads and disrupting the city centre - actions similar to that being undertaken by climate rebellion activists in cities in the UK and around the world.

"We're starting small on Friday," Albert (31) told the Belfast Telegraph.

"We're introducing ourselves to the public. We'll be handing out leaflets and petitioning for the city council to declare a climate emergency," he said.

"The group only formed in Belfast a few weeks ago so we're not expecting anything on the scale of what we've seen in London over the past couple of days, but we've already had a lot of interest in what we're trying to do. This will be Belfast showing solidarity with what has been happening across the world."

Protesters are due to gather at Castle Place from 1.30pm.

"We are going to have speeches, music and food. This is about getting people over to chat to them and get our point across and get them on board with what we need to achieve."

There are no plans for traffic disruption on Friday but regular protest dates are being considered for the future.

"Civil disruption is key to the movement," he said. "We have tried campaigning, petitions but have made no headway. This way people have to take notice of the problems facing all of us.

"We don't want to disrupt people, but Government failures over the last 30 years leave us no choice."

In London yesterday three activists glued themselves to a DLR train in Canary Wharf and others used bicycle locks to chain themselves outside Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn's home as climate change protests continued to disrupt the city for a third successive day.

More than 300 people have been arrested so far with over half a million affected by road closures, traffic gridlock and disruption to transport and businesses since Monday.

But critics, including DUP MP Sammy Wilson, hit out at what they called the group's "seriously flawed" methods.

"They are complaining about too much carbon dioxide in the air, so what do they do? They disrupt traffic, they cause traffic jams, they cause people not to use public transport but to use private transport to get to work in the morning, so they are creating all these traffic jams and causing noxious gases to go into the atmosphere - the very thing they say they don't want to happen they are causing to happen," the East Antrim MP said.

He welcomed the arrest of protesters. "If I went out and disrupted traffic on the Larne Line for some political purpose I'd be arrested, so why should they be exempt from the application of the law.

"The other thing is the arrogance of some of them, who feel that because they are on some kind of crusade they should be allowed to do whatever they want. The Government has to apply the same rules to them as anybody else."

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