Eco-activists are plotting to cause traffic misery for tens of thousands of families tomorrow by blocking one of the busiest roads into London.
Extinction Rebellion (XR) is organising a ‘picnic’ on the Westway, a key route along the A40 into the capital from the West, in a protest that would cause mayhem for tourists, Bank Holiday day trippers and Londoners returning home from weekend breaks.
It follows a week of chaos in London, during which hundreds of mainly middle-class eco-warriors blocked Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge, Parliament Square and Marble Arch, costing businesses tens of millions of pounds.
After fierce criticism of their ‘softly-softly’ tactics, police officers yesterday finally broke-up the Oxford Circus protest site.
Police try to remove an activist from Extension Rebellion glued to the ground as they attempt to clear all protesters from Oxford Circus on Saturday
Police form a human barrier in Oxford Street to prevent members of the public getting close on Saturday
Pink paper boats are seen as climate change activists continue to block the road at Oxford Circus in London on Saturday
Protesters were pictured tonight in Parliament Square after a day of demonstrations across the capital
Around 20 demonstrators were arrested after officers encircled them at around 1pm.
About ten locked their hands together inside concrete-lined metal tubes, which had to be broken with cutting devices.
A final group of 200 protesters dispersed at 5pm and the road reopened, with dozens of officers on patrol last night to prevent it being re-taken. But Waterloo Bridge remained blocked.
Police were urging protesters to confine themselves to Marble Arch.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick condemned last week’s ‘miserable disruption’ which has led to more than 750 people being arrested, with 28 charged. With the protests set to enter a second week, The Mail on Sunday can reveal:
One woman smiles as she is arrested and taken away by police officers attending the demonstrations in Parliament Square
Police officers were pictured trying to remove climate activists at the Extinction Rebellion demonstration in Parliament Square
One woman smiled as she pointed at her friend who was being detained in a police van this evening
A climate activist who had been detained was smiling as she sat in a police van
This evening activists remained on Waterloo Bridge ahead of more planned protests tomorrow
- Eco-warriors are using encrypted messages to swap intelligence on police tactics and discuss how they have ‘converted’ some officers to their cause;
- Activists have drawn up sinister plans to ‘infiltrate the school system’ in a bid to ‘educate children’;
- Six celebrities who backed the XR protests have flown almost seven times around the world between them over the last year, racking up 30 tonnes of flight-related carbon dioxide emissions;
- A MoS reporter gained access to XR control centre, where ringleaders organise ‘flash’ protests with military precision;
- The Met asked for 200 extra officers from neighbouring forces amid claims that officers are ‘burnt out’.
The threatened protest on the Westway – a three-mile long, elevated dual carriageway – is set to put even more pressure on police.
More than 160 activists have indicated online they will attend the so-called ‘Last Picnic’ on Westway from 11am to 3pm, which organisers say is inspired by an 1862 oil painting The Luncheon on the Grass by Edouard Manet. Protesters have been urged to bring board games, frisbees and croquet sets.
Protest leader: I drive a diesel
Gail Bradbrook has admitted that she still drives a highly polluting diesel car.
The molecular biophysicist, left, who helped to orchestrate almost a week of disruption, revealed she would not ‘paint herself as a saint on the green front’.
She also defended XR against claims that it is elitist, arguing: ‘In loads of successful civil disobedience movements, you’ll find some of the people who were leading them were a bit posh.’
A self-proclaimed ‘neo-pagan’, the 47-year-old says she experienced a ‘download from the Universe’ in Costa Rica in 2016 – after taking the psychedelic drugs ibogaine and ayahuasca – which opened her eyes to the environmental crisis.
She has left the care of her sons, aged ten and 13, to her second husband, but plans to return home to Stroud this week for her youngest’s 11th birthday.
But AA president Edmund King said blocking Westway would be ‘totally irresponsible’ and he urged the Met to prevent it. ‘It will cause absolute gridlock, more emissions and more pollution,’ he added.
Meanwhile, leaked WhatsApp messages reveal how protesters have fostered close relationship with the police and gleaned intelligence on their tactics. In one, activists were advised to request being taken to Croydon police station if they are arrested as they will spend less time in cells there and its custody suite boasts vegan food.
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.
Activists, meanwhile, are asked to ‘question our attachment to having pets – what is the carbon footprint of cat/dog ownership?’
XR’s campaign has won widespread celebrity backing, but an analysis by The Mail on Sunday exposes the hypocrisy of six who have voiced their support.
Dame Emma Thompson, actors Willem Dafoe and Simon Pegg, plus wildlife presenter Chris Packham, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and documentary maker Jack Harries have jointly flown at least 170,000 miles in the past year, creating 30 tonnes of flight-related carbon dioxide emissions – the equivalent of the total annual CO2 produced by four average UK households.
The estimates assume the six flew business class and are based on the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organisation Carbon Emissions Calculator.
Hugs tears and three types of soya milk! HOLLY BANCROFT reveals how she posed as an eco-warrior to infiltrate London protests
Dr Gail Bradbook co-founder of Extinction Rebellion at their HQ in Drummond Street, London
I’m standing in the kitchen of Extinction Rebellion’s London headquarters as the protest group’s scrupulously polite co-founder Gail Bradbrook makes me a cup of peppermint tea.
In an open-plan office, about 20 people tap away on laptops and talk in hushed voices.
To the uninformed, it could be one of the hip technology firms or trendy advertising agencies found in abundance across the capital, but this atmosphere of focused professionalism is very different from the last time I was here.
Two weeks ago, I posed as an eco-warrior to infiltrate the revolutionary protest group. When I entered the same fourth-floor office for the first time, loud music played and a man with long hair danced around and waved his arms.
Last weekend I revealed how Extinction Rebellion (XR) was planning huge disruption through a campaign of civil disobedience and by recruiting an army of middle-class ‘rebels’ willing to be arrested.
Remarkably, despite my deception, I am welcomed back and offered a tour of the nerve centre where XR ringleaders mastermind the rebellion.
The willingness of Gail to show me around says a lot about the group’s sophisticated approach to the media: XR’s blockade is disrupting the lives of millions and they want to do everything they can to explain why.
Gail Bradbrook addresses a speech to the protesters in central London yesterday
I’m shown how the office, a bright room in an anonymous office block near Euston station, is split into sections for the key ‘working groups’: teams of six to eight people running different parts of the rebellion, from planning and logistics to finance and support for those who get arrested. The media and messaging team take up much of the main room, with five young women working across six desks that have been shoved together.
The desks are a jumble of newspapers, Apple Mac computers, reusable water bottles and plants. Staff have a choice of three different soya milks for their tea and coffee.
We walk past an office with the words ‘Regenerative room’ written on the door. Gail peers in and hushes me to be quiet as protesters are sleeping on the floor.
XR is built to be ‘self-organising’ with no job descriptions, few targets and hardly any budget. ‘When we start meetings everyone might say how they are actually really doing,’ Gail says. ‘Lots of tears, lots of hugging, lots of music and dancing.’
Dr Gail Bradbrook (pictured above) is the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, the group which has been holding demonstrations across the capital this week
But amid the hippy vibes, there is steeliness and an anarchic impulse to overthrow the status quo. Gail, a molecular biophysicist, believes it will take between ten days and three weeks for the Government to cave in and Extinction Rebellion is ready for the long haul.
Each day at 7pm, key figures meet in a small room to go over that day’s successes and plan for tomorrow.
A flip-chart in this room has a list, including the alarming line: ‘Mass hunger strike?’
‘This is a rebellion,’ Gail tells me quietly. ‘It’s fine if people want to have a bit of fun and a bit of a dance but this is not a free party. What we’re wanting to do is create a political crisis.’
All white and middle class? That’s SO not true. I saw one family who’d brought their Filipino au pair to the eco protests, says TITANIA MCGRATH… the social injustice warrior (created by Andrew Doyle)
I have always been super worried about the environment. Climate change causes erratic weather conditions, which is really bad for the hedge maze on my estate. And I’m very aware of my carbon footprint. For instance, I always make sure that at least one of my cars is energy efficient. Besides, as a social justice activist, I can do an awful lot of good by sending angry tweets from a ski slope in Val-d’Isère.
But my involvement in the Extinction Rebellion movement has taken my environmental work to a whole other level. I’ve spent the last couple of nights camped out in Oxford Circus in London. I can’t sleep in an actual tent because I’m allergic to nylon, but the hotel I’m staying in only has a three-star rating, so I feel like I’ve made a genuine sacrifice.
People camping out in Oxford Circus (pictured above) during the Extinction Rebellion protests
Some of the most talented and well-loved public figures have supported our work, and so has Guardian columnist Owen Jones. On Friday, Dame Emma Thompson arrived after a gruelling 5,000-mile flight from Los Angeles to show how dedicated she is to reducing carbon emissions.
To those who see this gesture as hypocritical, I would like to point out that the flight was already scheduled and she didn’t even travel First Class. She was in the cargo hold making papier-mâché wind chimes which she later distributed to adoring fans.
‘We are here in this island of sanity!’ Dame Emma cried from the top of a bright pink boat at the heart of Oxford Street, while bearded men in red togas chanted paeans to Pan and the woodland nymphs. She praised the young people who had turned out in droves, although a few of them confessed they were only there as fans of Nanny McPhee.
Dame Emma Thompson (pictured above) also joined in with the protests in Oxford Circus this week
I arrived later that afternoon and, as I approached the cluster of tents just outside the Oxford Street branch of H&M, I was greeted with wild cheers from the sunburnt throng. They were understandably thrilled that their campaign was to be supported by a high-profile individual such as myself. (I presume they recognised me from my frequent appearances in the society pages of Tatler.)
One young woman remarked that my arrival reminded her of Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. I told her that if I must be compared to a male historical figure, it should be Mahatma Gandhi, not some Zionist settler who’d learnt a few conjuring tricks.
Gandhi has provided the inspiration for the entire modus operandi of Extinction Rebellion, based as it is on the principle of ‘non-violent resistance’.
Gandhi’s followers used to call this ‘satyagraha’, because they lacked the necessary discipline to learn English properly.
In many ways I have surpassed Gandhi. He might have brought the British empire to its knees, but did he ever glue himself to the Docklands Light Railway, stripped to the waist and smeared in woad? No, he was too busy mincing around in flip-flops and collecting salt.
We in Extinction Rebellion have three main aims. Firstly, the Government and the media need to start telling the truth about climate change. There is so little discussion on this topic that most people haven’t even heard of the climate, let alone realise that it’s changing.
Protesters in Oxford Circus gathered today to continue to demonstrate in support of Extinction Rebellion
I only found out about it because I watched the film Highlander II, which depicts a dystopian future where the ozone layer has fully depleted. Sean Connery plays a Spaniard with a Scottish accent and Christopher Lambert plays a Scotsman who sounds French. Is that really the kind of perverted future we want for our children?
Secondly, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by the year 2025. Critics have pointed out that the restrictions on key industries that would be required in order to achieve this would cause economic meltdown and that it would be the poorest in our society who would be most severely impacted. But hardly any working-class people have turned up to our protests over the past few days, which surely means that they’re not bothered either way.
Officers sat across from the pink boat in Oxford Circus earlier this week
Finally, the Government must outsource all decisions relating to ecological issues to a citizens’ assembly. It is perfectly obvious that our current system of representative democracy is failing and that our politicians cannot be trusted. Except when it comes to Brexit, in which case Parliament clearly knows best and should just ignore the will of the electorate.
Our tactics in Extinction Rebellion are varied but for the most part we like to chain ourselves to things and strip naked.
Over the past week, we have attached ourselves to famous landmarks, buses, and even the occasional homeless person. Sometimes we chain ourselves to things as a sign of affection, such as the fence in front of Jeremy Corbyn’s house.
He seemed a bit annoyed when he saw a group of hipsters sitting cross-legged on his begonias but I think deep down he understands that we are saving the world.
It’s been particularly heartening to see so many children joining our group. It’s never too early to start being politically active and, as we saw with the Youth Strike 4 Climate back in February, some young people are so committed to direct action they’re even prepared to miss school for it. After all, it’s their future that’s at stake.
As Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, recently pointed out on Good Morning Britain, her two children ‘won’t have enough food to eat in a few years’. This strikes me as an understatement. I wouldn’t be surprised if they gradually eat each other to death.
The group Extinction Rebellion is calling for a week of civil disobedience against what it says is the failure to tackle the causes of climate change
Inevitably, there has been a backlash from the more reactionary elements of the media.
Jeremy Corbyn (pictured above) leaving his house past Extinction Rebellion campaigners
Some have criticised the protesters for being overwhelmingly white and middle class, but this is simply not true. I saw at least one family who had brought along their Filipino au pair. Besides, this wasn’t like that pro-Brexit rally where Channel 4’s Jon Snow said that he’d ‘never seen so many white people in one place’. The members of Extinction Rebellion are not white in any sense other than their skin colour. They are the good whites. Jon Snow was clearly referring to working-class whites, who tend to have the wrong opinions.
Other critics have claimed that the UK Government has worked assiduously to address climate change, with CO2 emissions at their lowest since the 19th Century and all coal-fuelled power stations (which have been pointless anyway since we invented electricity) due to be shut down permanently by 2025.
Furthermore, the critics sneer, China is responsible for almost a quarter of all the world’s greenhouse gases, producing 23 times more than the UK, so why aren’t we protesting outside the Chinese embassy? But if a freestyle pagan folk dance on Waterloo Bridge doesn’t make the Chinese government think twice about its environmental policies, surely nothing will.
Climate change activists from Extinction Rebellion protest pictured leaving the scene after staging a protest and glueing themselves to the front fence of Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s house in London
Some people had inconsiderately scheduled their Easter holidays to clash with our protests and then had the gall to complain when their travel plans were ruined.
Jon Snow (pictured) said he had never seen so many white people in one place
Frankly, these kinds of people don’t deserve a holiday, and if the apocalypse does come, I hope they bear the brunt of it.
As for me and my compatriots in Extinction Rebellion, we had a wonderful time. There was cavorting in the streets, amateur hemp-weaving competitions, angry teenagers reciting haiku about why we need more badgers and even an acoustic lesbian quintet performing the songs from Hair.
I myself mounted the pink boat to recite my shocking and evocative poem Mother Earth Is Not Your Slut, which I performed naked except for a pashmina fashioned from interlaced earthworms. A number of people were so moved that they actually had to leave.
There is still so much work to be done. Actor Jason Momoa, star of the film Aquaman, has just shaved off his beard to raise awareness about the need to eliminate plastic waste. He’s doing his bit to save the planet. Why aren’t you?
- Woke: A Guide To Social Justice, by Titania McGrath, published by Constable, is available at Amazon.