Young eco-warriors broke down in tears about climate change on TV today after descending on London Heathrow today amid a plot to ‘shut down’ the airport and disrupt traffic for families planning a bank holiday getaway.
The Extinction Rebellion protest, which is now in its fifth day, has already brought parts of London to a standstill by blocking four major routes of Waterloo Bridge, Oxford Circus, Marble Arch and Parliament Square since Monday.
This morning, some 15 children all aged under 17 held a large banner with the words ‘Are we the last generation?’ on a roundabout outside Heathrow terminals two and three as they were surrounded by dozens of police. Officers told the protesters they were breaking a bylaw by protesting on airport property, and so arrests are expected.
One well-spoken boy told Sky News while fighting back tears: ‘I don’t want to be the last generation. I’ve told you I’m here out of love and out of fear and from that comes courage, and that’s why I’m here, that’s why I’m here.’
Another girl said: ‘It’s about the message that we’re trying to send, and that is that we are very possibly the last generation and that our futures have been stolen, the lives we thought we would be able to lead have been taken.’
The heavy police presence stopped them standing on the road, according to the group. Among those involved was Maya Rivett-Martinez, 15, who said the ‘constant fear for my future is what gives me the need for change’.
Also at the protest was Felix, 14, who said he was there ‘because when I have children I want to be able to tell them I did everything I could to protect their futures’, while Mia, 13, said it was ‘because something has to change’.
Later today, protest organisers said there will be a procession of youth members of Extinction Rebellion marching from the Eros Statue at Piccadilly Circus to Oxford Circus on a so-called ‘Day of Love’ in the capital.
They will be joined by Hollywood actress Emma Thompson, who was also at the protests at Marble Arch yesterday, and actors Lee Ross from White Gold and The Catherine Tate Show, and Paapa Essiedu from Press and Kiri.
The police at Heathrow are among more than 1,000 officers being deployed daily to tackle the protests, although they have until now failed to restore order elsewhere – leading to claims they are surrendering the streets.
The airport said it was ‘working with the authorities’, while Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said: ‘Protesters can expect a robust police response. We are determined to keep the airport operating.’
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he was ‘extremely concerned’ about the possible disruption, adding: ‘This is extremely dangerous, illegal and is putting an unacceptable toll on our police force and our city.’
Some officers have been working 12-hour shifts, while rest days and leave have been cancelled. The Met said the protests are putting a strain on policing in the capital with officers diverted away from ‘core local duties’.
Extinction Rebellion protesters are surrounded by police as they protest at London Heathrow Airport this morning
Extinction Rebellion protesters link arms as they sit on the pavement next to a roundabout at Heathrow Airport today
Police officers stand guard in a line during the Extinction Rebellion protest outside Heathrow Airport this morning
Some of the young people involved in the Extinction Rebellion protest at London Heathrow Airport today appear emotional
Climate change activists hold a banner saying ‘Are we the last generation?’ as they attend the protest at Heathrow today
The heavy police presence at Heathrow today stopped the protesters standing on the road, according to Extinction Rebellion
The climate change activists, from Left-wing group Extinction Rebellion, expect to be joined by hundreds more supporters off work for Easter. As pressure grew on the authorities to act yesterday:
■ Home Secretary Sajid Javid urged police to use the ‘full force of the law’;
■ London Mayor Sadiq Khan blamed Government cuts and asked for more cash;
■ Officers caught dancing and skateboarding with activists received a dressing down;
■ Only eight protesters have been charged, with hundreds of others released because resources are so squeezed;
■ Company bosses complained the chaos had forced them to lay off staff.
Leaked messages, apparently sent by privately-educated ringleader Robin Boardman-Pattison, 21, laid out the plot to cause travel chaos.
They said: ‘Tomorrow we will raise the bar. We are going to shut down Heathrow. For the bank holiday, we are turning our focus on to the aviation industry. There is a deep remorse for those whose holiday and family plans will be disrupted.
‘However, the aviation industry needs to be targeted and we are all aware of the deep, structural change that needs to come. We are all going to face pushback on this. Keep on going everybody. Keep rebelling.’
Protesters were told to get a specific train out of London and congregate on a petrol station forecourt near the airport.
Extinction Rebellion protesters become emotional as they hold a demonstration outside London Heathrow Airport today
Two climate change activists become emotional during the Extinction Rebellion protest outside Heathrow Airport today
A climate change activist stands next to a group of police officers during the Extinction Rebellion protest at Heathrow today
About 15 children all aged under 17 held a large banner with the words ‘Are we the last generation?’ at Heathrow today
Extinction Rebellion protesters become emotion as they are surrounded by police outside London Heathrow Airport today
The police at Heathrow this morning are among more than 1,000 officers being deployed daily to tackle the protests
The good weather – with sunshine and highs of 77F (25C) – is expected to draw yet more crowds to the streets.
Yesterday, ‘swarming’ protests took place at Vauxhall Bridge when protesters stopped traffic intermittently for up to ten minutes. This can be more disruptive to traffic than permanent diversion.
Mr Boardman-Pattison flounced out of a Sky News interview on Wednesday after it was suggested he and his fellow demonstrators were patronising and self-indulgent.
He has previously said his group would like to see planes ‘only used in emergencies’. His social media pages feature a series of photos of him enjoying skiing holidays abroad and visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy.
Last night Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said the protests were ‘increasing in intensity’ and warned demonstrators against targeting Heathrow.
He added: ‘Protesters can expect a robust police response. We are determined to keep the airport operating.’
Climate change activists sit on the pavement outside London Heathrow Airport in a demonstration this morning
A police officer speaks to an Extinction Rebellion protester demonstrating outside Heathrow Airport this morning
The young eco-warriors descended on London Heathrow today as part of the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations this week
A group of Extinction Rebellion hug each other during the demonstration outside London Heathrow Airport this morning
Police officers stand next to the Extinction Rebellion protesters at London Heathrow Airport this morning
A police van and anti-protest vehicles from Specialist Group Internation outside London Heathrow Airport this morning
The Metropolitan Police added in a statement: ‘The airport is part of our national infrastructure and we will not allow the illegal activities of protesters to cause further disruption and misery to thousands of travellers, many of them families, over Easter.
Car pollution levels peak on Waterloo Bridge
Levels of car pollution peaked on the roads around the climate protest on Waterloo Bridge where long traffic jams formed.
Air concentrations of nitrogen oxides, traffic emissions linked to respiratory disease and other health problems, spiked at 325mgms per cubic metre at 7am on Monday at the nearby London Air Quality Network monitoring station on the Strand.
It was the highest level recorded at the station for more than a fortnight. Levels went down overnight as traffic levels lessened, but spiked again at the height of the protest during the morning rush hour on Tuesday, when they hit 300 at 8am, and on Wednesday spiked again at 253 at 11am.
Dr Prashant Kumar, professor in air quality and health at the University of Surrey, said: ‘When vehicles are idling or stopped they give off higher emissions than free flowing traffic where you get much more dispersion of these emissions.’
‘We would urge any protester planning to attend Heathrow to strongly reconsider.’
The airport urged passengers to check with airlines for potential delays and said it was ‘working with the authorities’ to address the threat of protests.
Travellers whose flights are delayed or cancelled by activists have been warned they may not receive any compensation.
Coby Benson, a travel lawyer at Bott & Co, said the demos are likely to be considered ‘extraordinary circumstances’ – meaning they are not the airline’s responsibility.
Mr Khan, who has this week been accused of offering tacit support to the protesters, condemned their plans.
He said: ‘I support the democratic right to peaceful protest and agree that governments need to do more to tackle climate change, but these protests are now putting Londoners’ safety at risk.
‘This is extremely dangerous, illegal and is putting an unacceptable toll on our police force.’
Extinction Rebellion has warned that its ‘non-violent’ protests will escalate if its demands are not met. It wants the Government to introduce a legally-binding policy to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025.
Extinction Rebellion protesters gather at Parliament Square last night as the total number of arrested protesters reached 500
Police officers arrest Extinction Rebellion protesters during a demonstration at Parliament Square in London last night
Climate activists glued their hands to the floor at an Extinction Rebellion demonstration in Parliament Square last night
The activists have vowed to keep blocking key thoroughfares in London. As of last night, there had been more than 500 arrests.
I’ve had to axe staff, says furious delivery firm boss
The owner of a delivery firm vented his fury at the protesters yesterday, as he spoke of having to sack 15 employees because of the disruption.
The man, named Matt, from Merton, south London, said the damage to his company was ‘unbelievable’ as he slammed police and London mayor Sadiq Khan for not taking stronger action.
He told Nick Ferrari on LBC Radio: ‘I’m in the transport industry and I run 25 vans. Last night I had to turn around and terminate five drivers. Today I’ve got to turn around and terminate ten drivers because they can’t make deliveries in Central London. They’re now gone for good from my company. It’s costing me money. The damage this is causing is unbelievable.’
He went on: ‘When you look at the London riots the Met drafted in police officers from other areas to deal with the situation. Yet they’re doing nothing. And Mr Khan is supporting [the activists].’
Another caller, named Stephen, added: ‘I’m a self-employed construction manager. If I don’t work, if I don’t get out of bed, I don’t get money in and I can’t pay my bills, mortgages or look after the family.’
He questioned where the activists’ money was coming from while they demonstrated. ‘These people are blinded by their sheer stupidity that they can’t see the wood for the trees,’ he added.
Since Monday, Waterloo Bridge has been closed to traffic in both directions, with protesters planting trees, setting up vegan food stalls and erecting a skate park.
In Oxford Circus, London’s main shopping district, protesters have taken over the streets, parking a bright pink boat on the main intersection. Police believe it has been bolted to the tarmac.
Meanwhile, both Parliament Square and Marble Arch have also been completely shut down by non-stop demonstrations.
The latter has seen a yurt and compostable toilet erected on the road. Police have been drafted in from neighbouring forces to help tackle the threat and keep the airport open.
Yesterday, it emerged only eight of those arrested this week have been charged with an offence. All the others have been released under investigation because resources are so squeezed.
Three of the eco-warriors found themselves behind bars yesterday after gluing themselves to a Docklands Light Railway train at Canary Wharf station on Wednesday as part of the protests.
Cambridge-educated Cathy Eastburn, 51, Buddhist teacher Mark Ovland, 35, and Luke Watson, 29, all indicated not guilty pleas to obstructing trains or carriages but were denied bail when they appeared before Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court.
In another hearing yesterday, climate change activist Robert Pounds, 55, from Howdon, Tyne and Wear, denied obstruction charges after being arrested on London’s Waterloo Bridge.
He spent two days in custody before being brought to Westminster Magistrates’ Court yesterday. He pleaded not guilty and was granted bail.
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I wanted to get arrested on my 60th, jokes Emma Thompson as she supports climate change protesters
Emma Thompson arrived at Marble Arch yesterday afternoon to support climate change protesters – and joked that she wanted to be arrested on her 60th birthday.
The actress told activists she hadn’t achieved her ambition when she turned 60 on Monday but added: ‘I bet that will happen in the future.’
What she might not have mentioned to them is that she had just flown back to Heathrow from Los Angeles the day before. Many protesters have demanded the Government limit how many times individuals can fly each year.
Emma Thompson arrives at Heathrow on Wednesday (left) before stepping into the role of eco-warrior at Marble Arch yesterday (right)
Extinction Rebellion ringleader Robin Boardman-Pattison declared during a television interview this week that flying ‘should only be used in emergencies’ – despite his own apparently extensive travels.
A flight from Los Angeles International Airport to London Heathrow generates at least 1.67 tonnes of CO2.
Miss Thompson said she had wanted to join the protests sooner. Dressed in black dungarees and wearing a green sticker bearing the Extinction Rebellion logo on her chest, she said: ‘I was not here on April 15 because I was with my husband because I was 60. I absolutely wanted to be arrested on my 60th birthday but I haven’t quite managed that.’
The Oscar-winning actress added: ‘I am so proud and thrilled to be part of Extinction Rebellion, a new movement that has come up behind all the old ones I’ve been part of since I was 16.
‘A movement that’s telling it like it is and saying to government ‘look, there’s no more time. You can’t lie and you can’t stall any longer’. It’s hard, it’s inconvenient sometimes but it’s much more inconvenient to leave a planet that’s so completely destroyed our grandchildren will be up against things that we cannot even imagine.’
Her spokesman said: ‘She had to fly home at any rate, it was just earlier than she thought she could have. At the moment, that is our only available and practical means of trans-global travel.’
Skateboarding, dancing, snoozing… another hard day on police’s front line as Home Secretary warns of using ‘full force of the law’ against eco activists
Scotland Yard chiefs were in the dock last night after failing to explain how they will clear the streets of eco-warriors involved in crippling protests across the capital.
As they faced mounting criticism over their softly-softly tactics, they issued a rambling 880-word statement insisting they have a ‘robust policing plan’.
But they gave no guarantees the protests will be brought to a halt any time soon – meaning widespread disruption to commuters could last until after the Easter break.
The row came as footage emerged of police officers dancing and skateboarding in the street with protesters – and one officer apparently napping in a police car.
And in an extraordinary admission, the Met said it had ‘no legal basis’ to physically and forcibly stop the protesters from moving around London.
‘These are peaceful protesters. While disruptive, their actions are not violent towards police, themselves or members of the public,’ it added.
The lack of any firm action from the authorities seemed to give the protesters fresh impetus.
Organisers said they expected more to join the protests, issuing a statement – which was later deleted – saying: ‘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.’
As the row over police tactics intensified, the Met revealed only eight protesters have been charged out of more than 460 arrested.
It added it had called in back-up officers from other forces and cancelled leave.
Last night Sajid Javid and Sadiq Khan were at loggerheads over the force’s controversial methods.
The Home Secretary said he expected the police to ‘use the full force of the law’ against activists who act illegally, saying everyone had the right to peaceful protest but ‘I totally condemn any protesters who are stepping outside the boundaries of the law’.
Take a day off and join in fun, urges leader
Dr Gail Bradbrook told Radio 4 the protests are ‘awesome’
One of the eco-warrior protest leaders was given an ear-bashing on the radio after calling for people to take the day off work and join their ‘fun’.
Extinction Rebellion’s co-founder Gail Bradbrook, 46, called her protests ‘awesome’, telling the Today programme: ‘We’re making history at the minute, people are having a fantastic time on the streets and we really welcome people to come join us.’
But a less-than-impressed Nick Robinson responded: ‘They don’t frankly have the privilege that you do, in order to choose when you can go to work. And they may not appreciate being told they should have fun doing it.’
The climate protester replied: ‘I think it’s really important that people have fun while they’re rebelling actually. What we’re asking is for people to come and join us if they can and people are taking time.’
Today host Nick Robinson was less than impressed yesterday
Dr Bradbrook, 46, is at the heart of an eco-movement based out of a quiet corner of the Cotswolds but now paralysing the capital. Stroud is perhaps most famous as the birthplace of Cider With Rosie author Laurie Lee.
But in contrast to the bucolic childhood the writer describes after his family moved to the nearby village of Slad, Stroud now finds itself at the heart of the climate change protest.
Dr Bradbrook settled in the Gloucestershire market town more than a decade ago because she thought it would be a safer place to bring up her two children.
The scientist first grabbed headlines in local protests against fracking and the construction of an incinerator at Javelin Park near Gloucester, including one where she stripped to her pants outside a council headquarters.
Extinction Rebellion was only set up last year and already claims to have a presence in some 100 towns across the UK, including in Stroud, as well as in 35 different countries. ‘Gail is the godmother of this movement,’ the group’s spokesman George Barda once said.
Dr Bradbrook’s partner and fellow co-founder of the movement Simon Bramwell, 46, was taken away in a police van after supergluing himself to the Shell HQ on Monday. Several other of Extinction Rebellion’s Stroud members have also been involved in high profile moments this week.
Four Labour activists Skeena Rathor, 42, a Labour councillor, Richard House, 64, Tracee Williams, 55, and David Lambert, 60, travelled from Stroud and chained themselves to Jeremy Corbyn’s garden wall on Wednesday.
But London Mayor Mr Khan – who on Wednesday praised the eco-warrior group for its ‘co-operation’ – tried to make political capital out of the handling by police, suggesting in a letter to Mr Javid that the Met’s ability to enforce the law had been made ‘significantly harder’ by ‘the huge cuts to Government police funding’.
Government sources accused Mr Khan of ‘deflection tactics’.
Last night London Assembly Member Andrew Boff called for an inquiry into how Mr Khan and Scotland Yard had responded to the protests.
He said: ‘Questions have to be asked about whether the Mayor has tacitly encouraged Extinction Rebellion to bring our city to a grinding halt, having admitted he ‘shares passion’ with the group.
‘Sadiq Khan and senior Met Police officers owe Londoners an explanation; how have they failed to bring an end to this chaos and how long will it continue?’
In its statement last night, the Met said it had more than 1,000 officers on the streets policing the demonstrations, which have seen activists blockade four major routes through London.
‘This is putting a strain on the Met and we have now asked officers on the boroughs to work 12-hour shifts; we have cancelled rest days and our Violent Crime Task Force (VCTF) have had their leave cancelled,’ it said.
It added it has a ‘duty to balance the rights of those engaged in protest and who are acting within the law, against the needs and rights of Londoners to go about their daily lives with minimum disruption’.
Police at Oxford Circus – where a pink boat appears to have been bolted to the ground – yesterday persisted with a tactic of sporadically selecting a protester to arrest before carrying them from the crowd to whoops and cheers from activists.
Each arrest took at least four officers, as every protester would ‘play dead’ and had to be carried away.
Among those led away by police was a 77-year-old Anglican vicar.
Reverend Sue Parfitt, from Bristol, locked herself under a lorry which was used to block the road at the protest at Marble Arch on Monday.
A friend described her as ‘an inspiration’, adding: ‘She was prepared to get arrested if it came to it.’
A senior Police Federation official said on Wednesday that officers had not cleared the protests because the Government and senior officers had not given clear instructions to do so.
Hours later, images emerged of his colleagues enjoying an overnight rave with eco-warriors, smiling in hi-vis jackets as they danced to music blaring from the pink boat.
The officers looked appreciative of the protesters’ chants of ‘we love you’. One officer can be seen applauding as the crowd cheered.
But a police chief yesterday described their antics as ‘unacceptable’ after the footage appeared on Twitter.
A police officer is pictured sleeping in his car on Wednesday night during the Extinction Rebellion protest at Marble Arch
Scotland Yard said inquiries were being made to identify the officers involved. Met Commander Jane Connors 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.’
Her condemnation came as footage also emerged of an officer apparently asleep in his car, while another was seen skateboarding in daylight on Waterloo Bridge along a section of road where ‘climate justice now’ was sprayed in pink letters.