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Climate protesters prepare to escalate disruption if demands not met

Organisers with the Extinction Rebellion group have challenged the Government to meet and discuss their demands – or risk further protests.

Police officers begin to remove Extinction Rebellion demonstrators on Waterloo Bridge (London Jonathan Brady/PA)
Police officers begin to remove Extinction Rebellion demonstrators on Waterloo Bridge (London Jonathan Brady/PA)

Organisers behind the climate change protest which has brought parts of central London to its knees say they are prepared to escalate the group’s tactics if their demands “are not met” – with “thousands more rebels” expected to join in the coming days.

Dr Gail Bradbrook, a co-founder of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) group, said demonstrators would continue to act despite the first people being charged over the disruption.

It has seen activists glue themselves to public transport and block bridges and major roads across the capital.

The fourth day of protests began with a challenge to Environment Secretary Michael Gove to meet with activists at Parliament Square to find a solution to the issue.

Police struggle to arrest 350 and there are ten times that number prepared to be arrested Extinction Rebellion statement

And organisers said they expected even more people to join the protests, with a statement – which was later deleted – adding: “Easter Weekend is tomorrow and thousands more rebels will join.

“Police struggle to arrest 350 and there are ten times that number prepared to be arrested.

“The hollowed-out British state is overwhelmed.”

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Co-founder of Extinction Rebellion Dr Gail Bradbrook on Waterloo Bridge (Lewis Pennock / PA)

Speaking from Waterloo Bridge, Dr Bradbrook told the Press Association: “It (the charges) might put some people off and we escalated our strategy by focusing on the rail infrastructure.

She said the disruption is “how things change”, adding: “There’s a key piece of a rebellion where you have to escalate your tactics.”

The group has had “very heated discussions about what’s for the best” in terms of its methods, she said.

“It’s certainly an option that tactics will be escalated if our demands are not met,” she said.

Asked about whether key sites like Waterloo Bridge will remain held for two weeks as planned, she said: “It’s in the hands of the gods really isn’t it? It’s up to whether people respond to the call to come onto the streets.

“More people are joining us all the time. We’re having a fantastic time here. It’s how life is meant to be lived with people coming together and actually exerting their political power.”

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Extinction Rebellion demonstrators block Vauxhall Bridge in London (Stefan Rousseau / PA)

In a direct clarion call to Mr Gove, the campaigners added: “We are happy to discuss leaving if you are happy to discuss the climate crisis with us and how we find solutions that focus on principles of fairness and justice.

“Will you come down to Parliament Square and talk with us? Genuine offer.”

It came as police began charging people over the protests in London, following 428 arrests by the Metropolitan Police since Monday, according to the latest figures.

Cathy Eastburn, 51, Mark Ovland, 35, and Luke Watson, 29, were remanded in custody over their alleged involvement in obstructing trains at Canary Wharf station on Wednesday morning.

All three indicated a not guilty plea when they appeared at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court.

Some protesters chained themselves to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s garden fence on Wednesday as activists sought to gain maximum publicity for their cause.

Part of Oxford Street continued to be closed off to vehicles on Thursday, with the presence of a large pink boat – from which a DJ has been playing music to throngs of supporters – obstructing the main junction with Regent Street.

A mile west, a community of around 100 tents remain at Marble Arch.

An ice cream van also moved in to take advantage of potential customers, while one protester was able to keep an eye out on proceedings from a makeshift treehouse. Swarms of climate protesters swelled on Waterloo Bridge

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Demonstrators set up camp on Waterloo Bridge (Stefan Rousseau / PA)

Commuters walking across the bridge, which is completely closed to traffic, were forced to weave between crowds of demonstrators.

A green sign with the message “Rebel For Life” was unfurled across the width of the road and some demonstrators were also perched on a protest truck parked on the bridge.

Tents were also in place alongside rows of potted plants which the activists had lined up along the road, and music was playing from speakers at the front line of the demo.

The police presence at the bridge was thin during rush hour on Thursday morning, but noticeably increased as groups of officers slowly started to descend on the protest hub.

A handful of protesters also blocked traffic on one carriageway of Vauxhall Bridge Road, a short distance from Parliament Square, forcing some motorcyclists and cyclists to cross onto the opposite carriageway towards oncoming traffic.

It came as Metropolitan Police Commander Jane Connors said she was “disappointed” by a video appearing to show officers dancing with protesters.

She said: “I’m disappointed by the video and the unacceptable behaviour of the officers in it.

“We expect our officers to engage with protesters but clearly their actions fall short of the tone of the policing operation at a time when people are frustrated at the actions of the protesters.

“We will be reminding officers of their responsibilities and expectations in policing this operation – however the majority of officers have been working long hours and I am grateful to them for their continued commitment.”

Scotland Yard said enquiries are being made to identify the police officers involved.

PA

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