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Almost 600 Extinction Rebellion protesters arrested in two days of campaign

Police have detained 580 people in London since the demonstration began on Monday with more civil disobedience expected to follow.

Extinction Rebellion protesters camp in tents on Whitehall in Westminster (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Extinction Rebellion protesters camp in tents on Whitehall in Westminster (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

By Michael Bedigan and Laura Parnaby, PA

Almost 600 Extinction Rebellion protesters have been arrested in the first two days of their two-week demonstration in London, police confirmed.

Officers detained 261 people in the UK capital on Tuesday amid activists gluing themselves to buildings and refusing to move when prompted by the Metropolitan Police.

It came after a further 319 were arrested on Monday on the first day of the international action, which is taking place in cities across the world to demand more be done by governments to tackle climate change.

However, Scotland Yard was unable to provide further details on what people were arrested on suspicion of.

Earlier on Tuesday police handed out notices across Westminster, where campaigners kept an overnight vigil, in an attempt to reduce the disruption in the capital and concentrate the action on one area.

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A banner draped over one of the Landseer Lions during an Extinction Rebellion protest in Trafalgar Square (Aaron Chown/PA)

However, protesters glued themselves to the Department for Transport building and to the underside of a lorry outside the Home Office in defiance of the notices.

In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, the Met said any group wishing to continue with their Extinction Rebellion protest “must” go to Trafalgar Square, adding: “The condition does not have a time limit.

“In order to impose this condition, the Met required evidence that serious disruption was being caused to communities in London.

“The Met believes that this action is necessary in order to prevent the demonstrations from causing serious disruption to the community.

“Anyone who fails to comply with the condition is liable to arrest and prosecution.”

The 319 arrests on Monday dwarfed the 122 made on the first day of similar protests last April.

It came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson described activists as “unco-operative crusties”.

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A sizeable police presence outside the Home Office in Marsham Street (Aaron Chown/PA)

Claudia Fisher, 57, from Brighton, said: “We are a little bit crusty, I’ll put my hands up to it, after a night sleeping out on the grounds of Whitehall, but we’re not unco-operative. We’re actually very co-operative.

“We don’t take offence, we don’t have blame, we don’t go around calling people names, that’s not the way we do things.

“We actually really value what everyone has to say and would really like to hear what he has to say.

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Police use solvent to remove a protester glued to the ground at Millbank near to the junction with Great College Street (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“We’d really like him to show us the same respect and hear what we have to say.”

Former Metropolitan Police detective sergeant John Curran, 49, who camped overnight at the protests, said he was willing to be arrested again after being detained by officers during the first round of action in April.

Mr Curran, who is father to a three-year-old daughter and now makes guitars for a living in Oxford, said: “I am willing to be arrested again unless some changes happen.

“Clearly there is some frustration (for the police) that they probably have better things to be doing, and I agree, but the responsibility for that must lie with the Government. Take action and we won’t have to be here.”

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A protester who attached herself underneath a lorry blocking Marsham Street (Jonathan Brady/PA)

He added: “I’m not going to stoop to his (Mr Johnson’s) level of name-calling. Take action: that’s the only demand that I have.”

An Extinction Rebellion lorry, parked outside the Home Office, became a focal point for some activists who glued themselves underneath the vehicle while several hundred protesters spent Tuesday sat on either side of the police blockade at the building.

Some 200 protesters are thought to have camped in tents overnight on nearby Horseferry Road and the surrounding area.

Many said they were prepared to stay in their makeshift camp.

Activist Mike Gumn, 33, from Bristol, camped overnight wearing a suit and a flat cap to show the protest “is for everyone”.

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Mike Gumn said the protest ‘is for everyone’ (Laura Parnaby/PA)

Mr Gumn, an NHS manager who has children aged two and three, said: “I have a job, I have taken annual leave to be here.

“I’d rather be with my family.

“I want to make a statement that (the activists) are all different sorts of people from all different walks of life, not just people you would call hippies.”

On being arrested, he said: “We will decide as a group when we are going to move, and we are not going to let police tell us when.

“I would not like to get arrested, but if that happens when I am exercising my right to protest and deliver a good life for my children, then I will take it on the chin.”

Further disruption is expected throughout the week.

PA

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