Londoners warned of ‘significant disruption’ as Extinction Rebellion plan weeks-long protests

London’s Metropolitan Police have warned that extensive disruption is expected as Extinction Rebellion take to the streets of the city.

The environmental group is expected to demonstrate for two weeks, focusing on the City of London, from 23 August to 3 September. 

The demonstrations are to kick off from Trafalgar Square on Monday at 10am, and will see thousands of people join, according to the group’s spokesperson. 

Extinction Rebellion’s spokesperson Zoë Blackler told i: “Climate change is happening and it’s happening now. In June the IPCC issued a Code Red warning for humanity. The last few months have seen record-breaking weather extremes across the globe, including the heat dome in North America, raging wildfires in Southern Europe, and devastating flooding not just in Germany but also here in London.

“In November, the UK hosts COP 26. Our government should be showing global leadership and taking the radical action needed to prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change. 

“After Covid, we now know that a rapid, emergency response is possible and that the British people will get behind whatever is necessary to protect their families and their livelihoods. We know too that people are feeling increasingly alarmed about the breakdown of our climate and what it means for us all.” 

The Met’s deputy assistant commissioner Matt Twist said: “It is clear to us, from reading and listening to their public announcements that Extinction Rebellion’s intention is to once again cause significant disruption to London and to London’s communities through acts of civil disobedience.

“There have been three previous extended periods of demonstrations by Extinction Rebellion in London. People going about their normal business saw bus routes being diverted or cancelled, significant roads closures, tubes and DLR routes being disrupted by spontaneous demonstrations, and the abstraction of hundreds, if not thousands of officers from their normal duties”.

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He added: “Like everyone else, Extinction Rebellion have the right to assemble and the right to protest. However, these rights are qualified and are to be balanced against the rights of others. They do not have the right to cause serious disruption to London’s communities and prevent them going about their lawful business”.

In response to the Met statement, Ms Blackler said: “We completely agree that spending £50 million on the policing of peaceful protest is a total waste of money that should be spent mitigating climate breakdown. 

“The Met’s strategy is: devote excessive resources to over-policing normally law-abiding citizens protesting peacefully in the name of human survival; blame them for the exorbitant cost; then use it to prop up a call for new, draconian police powers.   

“They also claim that XR is distracting attention from the fight against knife crime and domestic abuse. It’s a tried and tested line that is cynically intended to divide and rule and it does not wash.”

Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist speaks to the media about policing plans for the forthcoming Extinction Rebellion protests. (Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)

What is Extinction Rebellion’s plan?

Calling their two-week demonstration the ‘Impossible Rebellion’, the group aims to take on to the streets of London to “make the politically impossible inevitable”. 

They will gather on Monday 23 August at Trafalgar Square, in London at 10am. 

The last day of the fortnight of protests will take place on Friday 3 September, according to the environmental group.

What is the Met’s plan?

The Met Police said they will try and engage with organisers from Extinction Rebellion in hopes to minimise any disruption to London’s communities. 

Dep Asst Comm Twist highlighted that an operation this scale may impact their ability to police in communities across London and that every police officer “committed to a large demonstration is a police officer abstracted away from their local borough and community.”

He said: “Each painstaking hour spent dealing with a protester who has committed criminal damage, glued or locked onto a road or business, is time spent away from the people of London, in the parts of London who need us most, dealing with knife crime, domestic abuse, violence.

“I want our police officers to be serving Londoner’s, fighting crime as well as bearing down on our number one priority, violence. It is frustrating that activity by Extinction Rebellion will hinder those efforts”.

City of London Police chief Superintendent, Rob Atkin added that there is a policing plan in place, with officers “out in greater numbers to balance the right to protest with any disruption and distress people who live, work and visit the City may experience over the coming fortnight”.

Who is Extinction Rebellion?

Extinction Rebellion describes itself as “an international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and minimise the risk of social collapse”.

The group believes that life itself is under threat and that they must rebel and rise in the name of “truth” and withdraw their consent for ecocide, oppression and patriarchy. 

It says: “Every crisis contains the possibility of transformation. Across the world, heralded by the young, people are waking up and coming together”.

Answering the question of why the group rebels, it said: “Extinction Rebellion seeks an economy that maximises happiness and minimises harm; that restores soil health and the honourable harvest, taking only what is freely given from the wind, sun and tides. 

“In a decarbonised and relocalised system, it embraces frugality for the sake of fairness. It seeks to restore a sacred rightness to the world, to everything its season, the beauty of its steady balance. It restores the right to dream, relentlessly, gracefully, wildly. As trenchant as it is effervescent, this rebellion beckons the conscience, quickens the pulse and galvanizes the heart”.

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