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Environmental protesters block major roads in bid to bring London to standstill

Activists are demanding Government action on climate change.

Demonstrators during an Extinction Rebellion protest in Parliament Square, London (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Demonstrators during an Extinction Rebellion protest in Parliament Square, London (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Environmental protesters blocked some of London’s busiest roads and vandalised Shell’s headquarters as demanded action on climate change.

Thousands of people gathered at five central London locations on Monday in a bid to bring the capital to a standstill.

Some activists glued themselves to windows and smashed glass revolving doors at Shell’s HQ near Waterloo, while others climbed the building to spray graffiti and hang banners.

Police said three men and two women were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and taken to a police station in central London in connection with the incidents at the Shell offices as officers remained at the scene into the evening.

Campaign group Extinction Rebellion said it aimed to cause more than £6,000 damage so they can be tried by a jury in Crown Court.

Thousands of people joined protests across central London to demand the Government declares a climate emergency.

Skateboarders replaced cars and lorries on Waterloo Bridge as the Thames crossing was closed to traffic and decorated with pot plants and trees.

Police on the bridge said there were no plans to move protesters on but indicated that the response could change if there is major disruption at rush hour.

One officer said: “It’s been very peaceful so far. Everyone has been really pleasant.

“The only grief we’ve had is from passing motorists shouting at them to ‘Get a job’ – that’s about as exciting as it’s got.”

A bright pink boat became the focus for hundreds of activists stopping traffic at Oxford Circus, where some used makeshift devices to lock their arms together.

Roads were also closed and drivers diverted around Marble Arch and Piccadilly Circus.

At Parliament Square, people unfurled banners, held up placards and waved flags as speakers took to the stage.

Later the Metropolitan Police imposed conditions on the protesters, restricting them to gathering in the area around Marble Arch.

London’s protests are part of a wider campaign which will see people in at least 80 cities in more than 33 countries hold similar demonstrations on environmental issues, campaigners said.

Organisers said: “The International Rebellion begins and Extinction Rebellion will be bringing London to a standstill for up to two weeks.

“They will be blocking five of the city’s busiest and most iconic locations in a non-violent, peaceful act of rebellion where they invite people to join them for several days of creative, artist-led resistance.”

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There were colourful protests in Parliament Square (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Protester Olivia Evershed, 23, said: “I hope that it’s really going to bring awareness about the emergency crisis that we are in, and encourage the Government to act.

“They can change a few of the laws along with the Paris agreement so that we can really work towards achieving a practical target.

“We’ve got 12 years to act before there is irreversible damage to the environment and we start to see catastrophic changes. If we don’t do anything to change this, our children will die.”

Laura Jordan, 52, said: “This protest stands a good chance of working because we have a vast amount of ordinary people all saying the same thing.

“We need to change the way we do everything, the way we use fossil fuels. But this starts with the Government.”

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The protesters aim to cause disruption in central London (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The movement has received support from actress and activist Dame Emma Thompson and former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Speaking at a meditation on the eve of the protests, Dr Williams said humans had declared war on nature.

He said: “We are here tonight to declare that we do not wish to be at war. We wish to make peace with ourselves by making peace with our neighbour Earth and with our God.”

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There are environmental protests worldwide (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Scotland Yard said it has “appropriate policing plans” for the demonstrations and officers will be used from across the force “to support the public order operation during the coming weeks”.

Police advised people travelling around London in the coming days to allow extra time for their journey in the event of road closures and general disruption.

PA

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