Extinction Rebellion suggests group is FINALLY ready to end climate change protests

  • Apr 21, 2019
  • Daily Mail Australia

Extinction Rebellion's grip on London's crippled transport system is being loosened by police who are dismantling the camps set up during this week's protests.

Officers have started clearing banners, tents and even a skate ramp from Waterloo Bridge where the eco-activists have been demonstrating.

Key routes through the capital were brought to a standstill as the protesters chained and glued themselves to structures - and even trains - throughout the rallies.

But after 831 arrests, which saw 42 people charged, the climate change activists have suggested they are finally ready to end their demonstration which has stretched into its seventh day.

And although police are still clashing with some defiant protesters, Extinction Rebellion's equipment is being stripped from the bridge.

Tents, placards and chains were seen being carried away by officers, some of which carried pliers, this afternoon.

Their clear-up comes as the protest movement announced they are switching disruptive tactics for political negotiations as they enter a second week of campaigning to have the government declare a climate emergency.

Yet many eco-activists are still lining London's Waterloo Bridge, with photographs of the scene showing police officers forcefully removing them.

Farhana, the group's political circle co-ordinator, said: 'Today marks a transition from week one, which focused on actions that were vision-holding but also caused mass disruption across many dimensions (economic, cultural, emotional, social).

'Week two marks a new phase of rebellion focused on negotiations where the focus will shift to our actual political demands.'

She added: 'We want to show that XR is a cohesive long-term, global force, not some flash in the pan.

'Being able to 'pause' a rebellion shows that we are organised and a long-term political force to be reckoned with. This will give XR leverage as we enter into negotiations with those in power to make headway on our three demands.'

The group hopes to negotiate with the Mayor of London and Metropolitan Police to agree that they be allowed to continue their protests at Old Palace Yard, in Westminster, and leave other sites.

The skate ramp, cooking tents, and much of the infrastructure which has been supporting the XR movement during their protest is slowly being removed from Waterloo Bridge.

Officers have been seen carrying items including a large gnome into a waiting lorry, as they work to clear the River Thames crossing.

Activists on Waterloo Bridge have begun the task of removing their collection of trees and plants, and could be seen carrying and wheeling them to a nearby church at around 3.40pm.

Plans to block one of London's busiest roads have been cancelled by XR after it announced it would pause its disruptive tactics in favour of political negotiation.

The group had planned to hold a picnic on the Westway, part of the A40, and peacefully block the road near Edgware Road Underground station on Bank Holiday Monday.

A spokeswoman said the picnic would no longer be going ahead.

Speaking about the protests, Sadiq Khan, said more than 9,000 police officers had been responding to the protests, which had proved 'extremely challenging for our over-stretched and under-resourced police'.

He said: 'I share the passion about tackling climate change of those protesting, and support the democratic right to peaceful and lawful protest.

'But this is now taking a real toll on our city - our communities, businesses and police. This is counter-productive to the cause and our city.'

Mr Khan added: 'I'm extremely concerned about the impact the protests are having on our ability to tackle issues like violent crime if they continue any longer.

'It simply isn't right to put Londoners' safety at risk like this. My message to all protesters today is clear: you must now let London return to business as usual.'

Over the past week protesters have stopped traffic in Oxford Circus, set up camp in Marble Arch and created a temporary garden on Waterloo Bridge.

Members would commit to not disrupting other areas in exchange for Sadiq Khan speeding up the implementation of the Declaration of Climate and Ecological Emergency and considering setting up a London Citizens' Assembly.

They will also set up a political taskforce to take forward public negotiations with the government, warning that they are prepared to scale up action depending on how much progress is made.

The group called for an 'urgent meeting' with the Metropolitan Police and the Mayor of London, Mr Sadiq Khan, in the hope of ending 'the disruption to Londoners'.

In a since deleted tweet, the organisation said: 'Can we talk and work out a way forward? We request an urgent meeting so sites can be cleared with consent. Please contact us.

'We want to continue our peaceful rebellion against the UK Government but are willing to end the disruption to Londoners.'

The announcement comes on the seventh day of the protests, with the teenager who inspired the climate change school strikes due to join crowds later on Easter Sunday.

Greta Thunberg is expected to address Extinction Rebellion members on Easter Sunday ahead of meeting senior British politicians next week.

The 16-year-old Swedish activist has already met Pope Francis and spoken at the European Parliament.

Meanwhile, addressing the crowd at Waterloo Bridge, TV presenter Chris Packham said: 'In the coming weeks we will enter a different phase. Because of our force, we will be asking for negotiation to meet our objectives.

'What do we want? We want a declaration of climate and ecological emergency declared by our Government. Our Government has been on holiday but tomorrow they come back full of Easter eggs.

'And before they press that blasted Brexit button again, we must ask them to think about something altogether more pressing: saving our planet.'

Police officers had to administer emergency CPR after a person collapsed on Waterloo Bridge. Shocked with a defibrillator, it is unclear whether the individual was part of the Extinction Rebellion protest.

One witness, who did not want to be named, said the man had been sat close by her, and had been in the shade.

'Minutes later I could see it looked like he was fitting, his body was so rigid,' she said. She added she did not think he was part of XR as he did not have any visible stickers or signs on him, but she could not be sure.

Officers worked quickly to help the man before an ambulance arrived.

After fierce criticism of their 'softly-softly' tactics, police officers yesterday finally broke-up the Oxford Circus protest site.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick condemned last week's 'miserable disruption' which has led to more than 750 people being arrested, with 28 charged.

Hundreds of officers from other forces have been drafted in to help quell the ongoing disruption.

Police have been trying to confine the protests to one site in London, at Marble Arch, but protesters have ignored the threat of arrest and continued to block roads across the capital.

Ms Dick said: 'I have never - I've been a police officer for 36 years - I have never known an operation, a single operation, in which over 700 people have been arrested.'

She said she was 'not embarrassed' about the length of time it is taking officers to clear the streets, defending their 'determination and the resilience and the courage that they are showing in the face of quite a lot of difficulty'.

Ms Dick predicted that large numbers of people would be 'furious' if the demonstrations affect the London Marathon, which will take place next Sunday.

The Commissioner said she will be talking to the Government and criminal justice colleagues to see if changes to the police's powers should be made to help officers deal with non-violent demonstrators when they are acting unlawfully.

'That is the dilemma and if our powers are insufficient, if we don't have sufficient deterrents in the criminal justice system, then I will certainly be asking for changes.'

The group has pledged to continue causing disruption until its demands are met.

It wants the Government to declare a climate emergency and take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.

There are increasing fears that protests by XR, which boasts more than 100 regional groups, could spread nationwide.

Leaked minutes from a meeting of activists in Devon earlier this year reveal plans to 'educate children and infiltrate the school system' along with the use of puppets and street theatre to blockade streets.

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