Commuters leaving London tonight face a chaotic journey home with thousands of climate change protesters blocking key transport hubs during a co-ordinated day of action at five landmarks.
Some activists glued themselves to the windows and smashed glass revolving doors at Shell’s headquarters near Waterloo, while others spray-painted graffiti and hung banners on the building.
Workers returning home from areas around Waterloo Bridge, Oxford Circus, Marble Arch and Piccadilly Circus face being unable to get through by road to Underground stations thanks to the Extinction Rebellion protests.
Police said three men and two women were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage over the Shell incident. Extinction Rebellion claimed they aimed to cause more than £6,000 in damage so they can be tried by a jury in the crown court.
Activists are targeting five locations – the fifth being Parliament Square – as they demand the Government declare a climate emergency, but organisers warned they could be arrested for blocking traffic.
Protesters are holding people’s assemblies, performances, talks and workshops – with a colourful display of flags bringing normally busy routes to a standstill, and trees placed on Waterloo Bridge making it a ‘Garden Bridge’.
Skateboarders replaced cars and lorries on Waterloo Bridge, with police saying there were no plans to move protesters on – but indicated that the response might have changed if there were a major disruption at rush-hour.
Protesters who blocked roads approaching Heathrow Airport, in a 2016 Black Lives Matter protest, were arrested and later found guilty of wilful obstruction of the highway and fined several hundred pounds each.
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.’
Extinction Rebellion eco-protesters wave flags from the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain at Piccadilly Circus in London today
Environmental protestors from the Extinction Rebellion group gather around a pink boat at Oxford Circus in London today
Climate protest group Extinction Rebellion block London’s Oxford Circus today at the start of a week of planned protests
As afternoon commuters were blocked by protests and lines of bodies the environmentalists continue to make their voices heard at Edgware Road
Police officers detain a climate change activist during the Extinction Rebellion protest at the Shell Centre in London today
Activists from Extinction Rebellion block Oxford Circus with a sailing boat today to highlight the threat of global warming
Extinction Rebellion climate protesters in the centre of Oxford Circus stopping any traffic
Demonstrators speak during the Extinction Rebellion protest on Waterloo Bridge, with the City of London in the background
Extinction Rebellion activists sit under a van on the road during the climate change protests in London today
Protesters gather at Parliament Square with banners as they take part in the Extinction Rebellion demonstration today
Environmental protesters from the Extinction Rebellion group in fancy dress dance march towards Oxford Circus today
A group of protesters lie on the pavement and road as they stop traffic moving on Oxford Street in London today
Demonstrators shout and wave flags during the Extinction Rebellion protest at Oxford Circus in London today
A climate change activist is seen with her hands glued to the entrance of the Shell Centre in London during today’s protests
Hundreds of people gathered outside Oxford Circus Tube station around a pink boat with the words ‘tell the truth’ printed on it, where some used makeshift devices to lock their arms together.
Marble Arch was also blocked, while demonstrators caused further disruption as they made their way from Hyde Park Corner to Piccadilly Circus. In Parliament Square, others unfurled banners and held up placards and flags.
Some observers said the protests would lead to others taking longer journeys than normal, with one labelling the protesters ‘deluded zealots’ and another tweeting: ‘The one day I get the bus to work all the routes are messed up.’
Amid a relatively small police presence today, Scotland Yard said they have ‘appropriate policing plans’ in place 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. People in at least 80 cities in more than 33 countries are holding similar demonstrations on the same issues today.
Some people set up camp in Hyde Park overnight into today, although permission had not been sought from the Royal Parks, which said camping is not allowed. But police said no arrests had been made by midday today.
Transport bosses told of widespread disruption amid 20 bus routes being diverted, with organisers of the Extinction Rebellion group claiming up to 30,000 eco-protesters will block major routes today.
The movement, which is demanding the Government takes urgent action on climate change and wildlife declines, has been backed by actress Dame Emma Thompson and former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams.
This graphic shows how parts of London have been reduced to gridlock by the protests today, with severe delays in red
Some people pointed out that the protests would lead to others taking longer journies than normal, while one woman tweeted: ‘Allow that on the one day I get the bus to work that all the routes are messed up because of a demonstration’
People on a glass roof of the Shell building on the Southbank in London today during the Extinction Rebellion protest
Police officers talk to a climate change activist next to the smashed glass entrance of the Shell Centre in London today
Environmental campaigners block Oxford Circus during a co-ordinated protest by the Extinction Rebellion group today
Environmental campaigners walk across Waterloo Bridge as they take part in the Extinction Rebellion protest today
Protesters gather on Waterloo Bridge in London for a demonstration this morning which closed the area to traffic
Demonstrators hold skeleton models during a Extinction Rebellion protest at Parliament Square in London today
Women and children have a bite to eat outside the entrance to Oxford Circus Tube station during the protests today
Climate change activists lie in front of Marble Arch during an Extinction Rebellion protest in London this afternoon
A demonstrator gets escorted into a police van outside the Shell building near Waterloo in London during the protest today
The busy Thames crossing of Waterloo Bridge was closed to traffic in both directions this morning, Transport for London said
Police officers stand on guard outside the graffiti-covered Shell Centre in London during the protests today
Demonstrators during a Extinction Rebellion protest at Parliament Square in London this morning
Demonstrators gather for Extinction Rebellion action in Parliament Square, one of five linked protests in London today
A climate change activist is seen with his hands glued to the entrance of the Shell Centre in London today
A woman dresses as the Statue of Liberty during a Extinction Rebellion protest at Parliament Square in London today
The campaigners, who include the granddaughter of a baronet, are demanding the introduction of a legally binding policy to reduce carbon emission to net zero by 2025.
They say they will continue to block key roads in London for weeks and ‘escalate civil disobedience’ if their demands are not met. The first stage this morning saw protesters take over Waterloo Bridge from 10am.
The next part of their global ‘Rebellion Week’ saw human barricades formed at Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Parliament Square and Piccadilly Circus.
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.’
Laura Sorensen, a retired teacher from Somerset, was among the protesters on Waterloo Bridge. She told the Guardian: ‘I am so worried about what’s happening to the planet. We are on a knife-edge now.
Protesters from Extinction Rebellion gather at Oxford Circus which has been blocked by the ‘ship of truth’
Protesters from the Extinction Rebellion group take part in a demonstration on Waterloo Bridge in London today
Activitis used the boat at Oxford Circus this morning as part of a protest urging the Government to take action
A man skateboards on a temporary ramp as environmental protestors stage a protest in the road on Waterloo Bridge today
A man stands on railing as protesters from Extinction Rebellion gather at Oxford Circus in London today
Demonstrators in colourful outfits and face paint take part in the Extinction Rebellion protest at Oxford Circus in London
A demonstrator knits while sat in the road as it is blocked during a climate protest on Waterloo Bridge in London today
‘I felt strongly that I needed to get out and show myself, rather than just talk about it in the pub. I see this disaster unfolding all around me… it is terrifying and the government have done nothing despite all the warnings.’
One driver caught up in the chaos told Sky News: ‘Well, I knew it was coming. It’s not ideal. But I do understand where they’re coming from.’
Another added: ‘It’s fair enough really, but we’re pumping fuel out the back while they’re stopping us from going. I’m not happy about it, I’ll end up going back down, it will cost me another two hours in the day.’
Their goal is to shut down vital roads and transport links, causing misery for commuters and keeping over-stretched police officers busy for hours.
Waterloo Bridge was was closed to traffic in both directions this morning, Transport for London (TfL) said. Extinction Rebellion tweeted pictures of activists walking on the road and said: ‘We have taken Waterloo Bridge!’
Demonstrators in colourful costumes during the Extinction Rebellion protest at Oxford Circus in London today
Environmentaal activists dress up in flamboyant costumes as they take part in a protest blocking Oxford Circus today
Banners urging politicians to ‘act now’ are held by Extinction Rebellion protesters at Oxford Circus in London today
Environmental protestors from Extinction Rebellion take part in a demonstration on Waterloo Bridge in London today
Protestors gather on the north side of Waterloo Bridge in London today as they take part in a global eco-movement
Environmental protesters from the Extinction Rebellion group stage a demonstration at Marble Arch in London today
Protesters put trees on the pavement at Waterloo Bridge today as they urge the Government to take action on climate change
Waterloo Bridge is pictured today as demonstrators put trees on the pavement as part of their ‘Garden Bridge’ creation
It was one of five central London locations being targeted by demonstrators demanding that the Government declares a climate emergency.
But Extinction Rebellion warned protesters they could face arrest for blocking traffic, while TfL said Londoners face travel delays.
Humans have declared war on nature, says former Archbishop of Canterbury
Humans have declared war on nature and put progress before the planet, the former Archbishop of Canterbury said on the eve of environmental protests aimed at bringing London to a standstill.
Dr Rowan Williams said the world is in a crisis which could be called ‘being at war with ourselves’.
He spoke at a meditation event outside St Paul’s Cathedral in the capital attended by activists preparing to take part in mass demonstrations organised by the Extinction Rebellion group.
Sitting on the ground amid protesters who held flags and banners, he said: ‘We have declared war on our nature when we declare war on the natural world. We are at war with ourselves when we are at war with our neighbour, whether that neighbour is human or non-human.
‘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.’
Praying at the all-faith gathering, he added: ‘We confess that we have polluted our own atmosphere, causing global warming and climate change that have increased poverty in many parts of our planet. We have contributed to crises and been more concerned with getting gold than keeping our planet green. We have loved progress more than the planet. We are sorry.’
Extinction Rebellion, which describes itself as a non-violent direct action and civil disobedience group, said the protests at major central London locations including Parliament Square and Oxford Circus from Monday ‘will be bringing London to a standstill for up to two weeks’.
A TfL spokesman said: ‘The safety of our customers and staff is our number one priority and we’re working closely with the police to manage the impact on London’s transport network.
‘We would encourage people to check their journeys before they travel.’
The so-called festival of action will see food stalls set up and talks given in the middle of the road throughout the day. Some protesters even plan to super-glue their hands to objects in the road and each other.
One of those expected on the streets is Tamsin Omond, the granddaughter of Dorset baronet Sir Thomas Lees. The 35-year-old went to Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge.
The most prominent figure in Extinction Rebellion is Left-wing academic Roger Hallam, whose stated ambition for the group is to ‘bring down all the regimes in the world and replace them’, starting with Britain.
Last November, Extinction Rebellion blocked bridges across London to bring chaos to the capital.
In February, they took part in a nationwide school strike and on April 1, during one of the Brexit debates, a group of their protesters stripped off in the House of Commons.
The movement, which is demanding the Government takes urgent action on climate change and wildlife declines, has received support from actress and activist Dame Emma Thompson and former archbishop of Canterbury Dr 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.’
Dame Emma has previously said of the demonstrations: ‘It is time to stand up and save our home.’
Organisers said: ‘The international rebellion begins and Extinction Rebellion will be bringing London to a standstill for up to two weeks.
Police speak to demonstrators during a Extinction Rebellion protest on Waterloo Bridge in London today
Activists at Marble Arch in London today who are part of the protest that has pledged to block five central locations
Protesters gather on Waterloo Bridge as they bring trees to place on the pavement during their demonstration today
Extinction Rebellion protesters turn Waterloo Bridge into their own ‘Garden Bridge’ during a day of action in London today
Climate change activists block Waterloo Bridge during an Extinction Rebellion protest in London today
A environmental protestor from the Extinction Rebellion group draws the group’s logo on a road at Marble Arch today
Protesters gather on Waterloo Bridge in London for their Extinction Rebellion demonstration this morning
Waterloo Bridge is the first of five London landmarks to be taken over by enviromental protesters this morning
Protesters hold a banner as they stand on the street at Waterloo Bridge in London this morning during the demonstration
Extinction Rebellion demonstrators gather at Parliament Square in London today ahead of their protest action
The disruption on Waterloo Bridge today is the UK element of what organisers hope will be an international movement
Protesters from the Extinction Rebellion group gather at Marble Arch this morning ahead of the demonstrative action
Transport for London have lines of buses on standby outside Underground stations this morning ahead of the disruption
Demonstrators arrived at London’s Hyde Park yesterday, and are pictured above getting ready for the day this morning
‘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.’
Protests across Europe
Today will see people in at least 80 cities in more than 33 countries hold similar climate demonstrations.
The first protest of the day was held at Schuman Square in Brussels this morning as protesters formed a human ‘XR’ logo – the same as that of Extinction Rebellion.
The Extinction Rebellion ‘Rebellion Week’ begins at Schuman Square in Brussels today as protesters form a human ‘XR’ logo
Demonstrators arrived at London’s Hyde Park on Sunday, some having journeyed to the city on foot in recent weeks from various parts of the UK.
Today will see people in at least 80 cities in more than 33 countries hold similar demonstrations on the same environmental issues, campaigners said.
While organisers encouraged people to set up camp in Hyde Park overnight into today, they were warned they could be breaking the law by doing so under Royal Parks legislation.
A spokesman for The Royal Parks said Extinction Rebellion had not asked for permission to begin the protest in the park and that camping is not allowed.
But police said no arrests were made overnight after earlier explaining their operational response to camping ‘would be dependent on what if any other issues might be ongoing at the time’.
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.
On April 1, during one of the Brexit debates, a group of Extinction Rebellion protesters stripped off in the House of Commons
Extinction Rebellion protesters sit after pouring fake blood onto the ground in London outside Downing Street on March 9
Extinction Rebellion climate protesters hang banners at Finnieston Crane and City Chambers in Glasgow
Climate change activists scaled the Finnieston Crane and hung banners at Glasgow City Chambers as part of nationwide protests.
Today, members of Extinction Rebellion Scotland climbed the crane and hung a banner reading ‘science not silence’, at Pacific Quay. Police arrived at the site at around 7am and removed the campaigners, although no arrests were made.
The action is part of an international week of protests calling for governments and councils around the world to declare a climate emergency. Protests are also expected in Edinburgh and London at Parliament Square this morning.
Four climate change protesters from Extinction Rebellion climb the Finnieston Crane in Glasgow today as part of the demonstrations
Members of Extinction Rebellion Scotland climbed the crane and hung a banner reading ‘science not silence’, at Pacific Quay today
Police arrived at the site in Glasgow at around 7am today and removed the campaigners, although no arrests were made
Explaining the reasons for protesting, one Extinction Rebellion member said: ‘We are just ordinary citizens and we want the council to act responsibly and save us from this accelerating disaster which may lead to serious flooding and food shortages in Scotland and across the world.
’27 other UK councils have declared a climate emergency. Why hasn’t Glasgow?’
In January this year, around 40 Extinction Rebellion activists occupied the debating chamber at the Scottish Parliament, staging an hour-long sit-in.
Daryl Tayar, another member of Extinction Rebellion, added: ‘I’m sure Robert Burns would’ve been happy to wear such a symbol – his poetry shows just how much he loved the environment and of course how radical his politics were.
The action is part of a global week of protests calling for governments and councils around the world to declare a climate emergency
Climate change activists scaled the Finnieston Crane and hung banners at Glasgow City Chambers as part of nationwide protests
The group climbed the structure using ropes at 5am and stayed on the structure until they were met by police and fire crews
‘He said it himself: ‘I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion has broken Nature’s social union’. If he were alive today, he’d be asking the City Council to declare a climate emergency urgently.’
Glasgow City Councillor Anna Richardson said: ‘There can be no doubt that Glasgow, along with the rest of the world, is facing a climate emergency.
‘The enormous challenge created by climate change is exactly why the council has set up a working group and asked for recommendations on the way forward. I have already made the commitment that I will act on these recommendations.
‘Members of Extinction Rebellion are part of our Climate Emergency Working Group. This gives them a real opportunity to contribute constructively to the debate on carbon reduction and influence what Glasgow does in the face of a global threat.
Members of Extinction Rebellion Scotland had hung a banner reading ‘science not silence’, at Pacific Quay
Police and fire crews meet the protesters from Extinction Rebellion who climbed the Finnieston Crane in Glasgow today
‘Unfortunately, after their previous protest, precious time, money and resources were wasted when staff had to remove 80 metres of graffiti which had been daubed on roads and pavements outside the city chambers.’
Scottish Greens climate spokesman Mark Ruskell MSP said: ‘It’s great to see citizen action highlighting the threat posed by climate breakdown.
‘Unfortunately, every other party voted against our proposal to declare a climate emergency last month in the Scottish Parliament. Only the Greens are willing to take the necessary action to tackle the climate crisis.
‘The people of Scotland will soon have the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to taking the bold and urgent action required to tackle the climate emergency by electing Scotland’s first Green MEP.’
Who’s ready to get arrested? Undercover with the eco-activist group Extinction Rebellion who plan to bring London to a halt on Monday – and are as ruthlessly professional as they are deluded
By HOLLY BANCROFT FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
Cigarette break: XR training volunteer Clare Farrell
I’m sitting in a cavernous community hall in East London with a group of eco-activists huddled in thick jackets against the cold.
We’re being drilled for our arrest – like soldiers being trained for capture and interrogation by the enemy.
Our tutor is a sixtysomething woman with fuzzy white hair who knows all about civil disobedience and its legal consequences.
She explains passionately that we must not speak to the police, other than to give our name and date of birth.
We must not get drunk before the ‘action’ in just a few days’ time.
And we should consider wearing adult nappies – in case we’re locked up for hours in a police van with no access to a lavatory. Or if we decide to chain ourselves to railings, barriers or whatever else to cause maximum disruption.
Welcome to Extinction Rebellion (XR), the revolutionary protest group hell-bent on eliminating fossil fuels from Britain.
To achieve this, they are planning an onslaught of civil disobedience on a scale rarely seen in this country. And I’m here undercover as a new recruit, or ‘rebel’ as they call it.
My induction took place late last month in an anonymous office block near Euston station. I’m told XR was given the space for free by a well-placed sympathiser.
A lift takes me to the fourth floor – an open-plan space with a smattering of desks and some 40 new recruits, an even mix of male and female, all casually dressed.
A handmade poster by the lifts is daubed ‘Eco not Ego’. A large sign warns us to avoid ‘suppression juice’ – that’s alcohol – so we can ‘rebel with a clear body and mind’. Brightly coloured banners hang from the ceiling – ‘No Brexit in a dead planet’, says one – while a giant papier-mâché skeleton of some big beast lies, under construction, in the corner.
This introductory meeting is led by a bearded XR activist called Greg, who lives in a squat in West London with other members of the group. His first move is to lead us in an awkward ‘ice breaker’. Sitting in rows on school chairs, we’re instructed to stick both arms in the air and waggle from side to side, chanting ‘woo-hoo’.
Then comes a minute’s silence for ‘the dying planet’. Struggling not to laugh, I bowed my head with the others, eyes down.
‘Devote some of your brain to imagining the kind of world you want to create,’ says Greg. ‘To get through this struggle together, we need to hold tight to our dream.’
We’re asked to think of one word to describe the world we want – and shouts of ‘harmony’, ‘sharing’ and ‘green’ come from around the room. ‘Courageous’, mutters a boy in a long beige trench coat sitting next to me.
Questions follow. The volunteers are keen, but concerned.
A charity worker with short blonde hair says she is worried about XR’s policy of deliberately getting arrested.
Not that she’s against breaking the law – just that it might deter volunteers who cannot take the risk of getting into trouble.
Eating her dinner from a Tupperware box, another young woman raises concerns about XR’s links to Labour’s hard-Left Momentum faction. George agrees XR and Momentum have a good relationship.
Preparing for action: A photo of an XR meeting taken by our undercover reporter. There is no suggestion those pictured are all intending to break the law
Then we are told to get in a long line, arranged in order of willingness to get arrested. It is time to hone our tactics and strategy for the forthcoming ‘rebellion week’ – which starts tomorrow.
‘Move around the room according to what you feel,’ says Naomi, one of the lead activists.
‘The question is this: how arrestable are you in XR?’
A handful immediately place themselves at one end of the room, the extreme that signifies: ‘Yes, I really wish to be arrested right now.’ A few walk to the opposite side, meaning: ‘Absolutely not.’
I’m with the majority shuffling around in the middle amid embarrassed laughter. This position says: ‘Maybe, let’s think about it.’
They ask us how far we’ll go. Will we commit a litany of protest crimes – smashing windows, defacing buildings? Will we glue ourselves to doors or block roads using ‘swarming’ – sitting down for a few minutes at a time to stop traffic?
‘I’m comfortable with spray paint that permanently damages but not breaking windows,’ states a woman in her 30s from a refugee charity.
‘I’m somewhere between the permanent spray paint and the chalk spray paint,’ says a man studying for a PhD in environmental activism. ‘They can’t charge you with criminal damage if you use chalk paint.’
‘Training session’: XR potential recruits Greg, left, and George
After an hour or so, we’re all split up into what they call ‘affinity’ groups based on how radical they judge us to be. They don’t seem to think I’m very revolutionary.
Roles are assigned for the forthcoming ‘action’. Our group has a ‘wellbeing co-ordinator’, a ‘legal observer’ and a ‘media organiser’.
Middle-class zealots who’ll make Monday a misery for millions
The most prominent – and radical – of the XR leaders is failed organic farmer and PhD student Roger Hallam
Failed farmer wants a world revolution
The most prominent – and radical – of the XR leaders is failed organic farmer and PhD student Roger Hallam.
After years in a succession of Left-wing groups, the 52-year-old says the ‘name of the game’ for XR is to ‘bring down all the regimes in the world and replace them’. Hallam (above) says paralysing traffic will eventually cause food shortages and trigger uprisings.
In a recent interview, he said XR protesters should be ready to cause disruption through personal ‘sacrifice’. If necessary, they ‘should be willing to die’.
XR co-founder Stuart Basden, 36, a middle-class writer from Bristol
Co-founder says jail’s like boarding school
XR co-founder Stuart Basden, 36, a middle-class writer from Bristol (above), has goals that go way beyond a desire to curb global warming.
Indeed, he has claimed: ‘XR isn’t about the climate. You see, the climate’s breakdown is a symptom of a toxic system that has infected the ways we relate to each other as humans and to all life.’
Basden has urged XR followers to embrace going to prison – where he spent a week after defacing London’s City Hall with spray paint last year – saying it is ‘a bit like boarding school’
Tasmin Osmond, 35, is a veteran of ‘direct actions’
Veteran campaigner from baronet family
Tasmin Osmond, 35, is a veteran of ‘direct actions’ which had little to do with climate change, such as Occupy London, the poverty protest which set up a camp outside St Paul’s cathedral in 2011.
The granddaughter of Dorset baronet Sir Thomas Lees, Omond (above) went to Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge, where she read English.
She was thrown out of anti-aviation group Plane Stupid after saying the green movement ‘brand’ was ‘unwashed, unshaven and up a tree’, and this ‘doesn’t represent me’.
George Barda, 43, believes the ‘Criminal UK Government’ is to blame for climate change
Student who’s on Putin’s TV channel
George Barda, 43, believes the ‘Criminal UK Government’ is to blame for climate change.
A post-graduate student at prestigious King’s College in London, the son of classical music and stage photographer Clive Barda still finds time to be a dedicated revolutionary and camped outside St Paul’s cathedral in the Occupy London campaign.
Today, Barda (above) is a director of XR parent company Compassionate Revolution and regularly appears on Russia Today, Russia’s controversial British TV channel.
How far would we go for the movement? A Scottish actress in her 20s tells us she’s planning to recruit her mother. ‘I think I’d be OK with being arrested,’ she adds. ‘It’s just that I’m so in and out of the country, I work between here and Paris. I don’t know if I would be able to make my court date, so I don’t know if it would work out.’
Another young woman, a university student, says she’ll bring her harp along to keep us entertained during ‘rebellion week’. Before the meeting breaks up, the organisers call for mature women willing to be trained as ‘de-escalators’.
These are the people asked to calm down frustrated members of the public, particularly drivers, trapped in the traffic jams we’re going to cause.
Then the evening comes to a conclusion with repeated chants of ‘Extinction… Rebellion’ from the hardened activists, who then treat us to an impromptu and utterly excruciating dance.
A beat box starts blaring, one long-haired man sways expansively, arms waving out of time, the others jig about. I leave, armed with XR stickers and posters to plaster on the streets.
The group gives me constant updates through the WhatsApp messaging system, and a few days later I’m back in the office block for another training session. This time, it’s altogether more alarming.
An activist in her 20s called Jess lays out XR’s terrifying vision of the future: ‘We want to build a structure, a community and test prototypes for the coming structural collapse of the regimes of Western democracies. And we see this as inevitable – this has to happen.’
Now, we’re drawn further into the plans for illegal protest, and made to take part in role-play scenarios of activists clashing with the police.
The golden rule is to stay silent when confronted by police – unless we quote from a self-righteous prepared statement outlining our supposed right to break the law as a ‘conscientious protector’ of Planet Earth.
And we must never, ever identify any of the XR organisers in case they are charged with inciting illegal activities.
Activists who plan to ‘lock on’ by super-gluing themselves to public property are warned to expect a long wait, as few police officers are trained to dissolve the glue.
The hope is to cause the maximum amount of chaos. They might even have activists locked on at five separate protest points in London. If we are seized by the police, we must make our bodies go floppy, to tie up more officers as they attempt to carry us away.
I endure a further marathon training session at a climbing centre in North London.
We’re being addressed by the white-haired lady, who I now know is press officer Jayne Forbes. Stating her own readiness for martyrdom and jail, she tells us that: ‘I’m an older person with no responsibilities.
‘I’m prepared to go to prison and I think we are privileged in this country to have prisons that are relatively acceptable.
‘If I was living in Brazil or something, I could get killed as an activist. Our prisons are not bad compared to many in the world.’
She tells us never to agree to a caution because that would be ‘an admission of guilt’.
We must never accept the help of a duty solicitor because they would be ‘pally with the police’. I’m learning a great deal.
We’re advised only to bring an old-fashioned ‘burner’ mobile phone to the protest in case the police want to seize the device as evidence.
I’m told a paperback will help me while away the long hours in a police cell – and that I can ask for up to three blankets from the custody officers.
I now have a list of ‘friendly’ solicitors on a small sheet of paper reminding me of my legal rights. Can we get vegan food in prison? XR thinks the answer is ‘yes’.
By the time I say my goodbyes, I’m truly worried. If this week goes according to plan for Extinction Rebellion, I know that many of its members will be only too delighted to learn first-hand about the inside of our police cells and our prisons – believing they have come one step closer to making their dangerous plan a reality.
DOMINIC LAWSON: Deluded middle-class climate warriors can’t see the real danger of their bright idea
Claire Perry said her encounter with this (until now) obscure group had been ‘good and productive’
Getting to see a government minister isn’t easy. I’d challenge any reader to see how long it takes to persuade the civil servants manning the bureaucratic barricades to let you bend a minister’s ear about whatever concerns you.
Yet somehow they found a space in the diary for a group called Extinction Rebellion (XR) to lobby the Minister of State for Energy, Claire Perry.
Ms Perry told the Mail on Sunday that her encounter with this (until now) obscure group had been ‘good and productive’.
Really? Extinction Rebellion is this week launching mass protests designed to shut down or obstruct transport links, causing (more) misery to commuters and business. If that’s the result of ‘productive’ talks, I wonder what would happen if they had gone badly.
But making Britain hell for business (and anyone who drives a car) is what Extinction Rebellion stands for. As the Energy Minister must know, its mission is to ‘save the planet’ by eliminating Britain’s CO2 emissions entirely by 2025.
Or in other words, to reduce us to a state of mere subsistence, last seen in the pre-industrial age when life was (for the great majority) nasty, brutish and short.
As if to emphasise the primitiveness to which they wish us to return, this is the group which on April Fool’s Day performed a naked protest in the public gallery of the House of Commons.
Actually, this is the only way people with such views could take part (so to speak) in parliamentary debate. Because any party which tried to get MPs elected on a policy of mass immiseration would not win a single seat. There might be some thousands of middle-class students and drop-outs sufficiently aesthetically offended by mass consumerism to vote for such a manifesto, but that would be it.
This is the group which on April Fool’s Day performed a naked protest in the public gallery of the House of Commons
Unsurprisingly, the leaders of this movement tend to come from well-to-do homes, which have never experienced scarcity or privation.
The figures behind the demonstrations planned for this week include Tamsin Omond, granddaughter of the Dorset baronet Sir Thomas Lees
The figures behind the demonstrations planned for this week include Tamsin Omond, granddaughter of the Dorset baronet Sir Thomas Lees; Stuart Basden (who said his week in prison after an earlier action was ‘a bit like boarding school’); and George Barda, son of the distinguished stage and music photographer Clive Barda OBE FRSA and a 43-year-old postgraduate student at King’s College London.
I am distantly related to one of the inspirations for this movement, the environmentalist author and journalist George Monbiot (we are both scions of the family which created the J Lyons catering and food manufacturing empire). Monbiot is anything but a hypocrite. He leads the life he preaches to others: he doesn’t own a car, never flies and, so far as I know, survives on a purely plant-based diet.
Last week, Monbiot appeared on Frankie Boyle’s television show, New World Order, and was cheered by the youthful audience when he demanded action to end economic growth, adding that this meant ‘we’ve got to go straight to the heart of capitalism and overthrow it’.
Monbiot has been consistent in this: in 2007 he wrote an article for the Guardian welcoming the prospect of a recession, even though, as he acknowledged, ‘it would cause some people to lose their jobs and homes’. (He got his wish: it turned out not to be popular).
But if it’s the planet you want to save, and you believe its very existence is threatened by excessive emissions of CO2, then what happens in this country is almost beside the point. The UK contributes little more than one per cent of global CO2 emissions. Even if the inhabitants of these islands were reduced by an environmentalist version of the Cambodian dictator Pol Pot to a state of pre-industrial and self-sufficient subsistence farming — no wicked imports of food via boat or plane — it would have a minuscule effect on the planet’s future.
In fact, the UK — chiefly through the steady closure of the domestic coal industry — has been in the vanguard of reducing CO2 emissions: in 2018, our emissions were at their lowest levels in 120 years.
Activists from Extinction Rebellion block off a road at Parliament Square, London, during a protest in October last year
The group yesterday set up camp in London’s Hyde park ahead of plans to cause widespread disruption across London later
It’s not British politicians that groups such as Extinction Rebellion should be haranguing and demonstrating against, but those in the People’s Republic of China. That is the nation responsible for 60 per cent of the growth in global CO2 emissions over the past decade.
And China is currently building almost 260 gigawatts of new coal-fired power generating capacity — in itself almost the size of the entire U.S. coal-fired capacity.
The trouble is the Chinese state would treat rather robustly any Extinction Rebellion activists who attempted to demonstrate on its busiest streets, or to mount a naked protest in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. I don’t recommend they try that.
Nor should we be so critical of the Chinese. They, as we in the West did before them, are using cheap energy wrenched from the Earth’s resources to escape from lives of almost unimaginable poverty. And it was economic growth which ultimately created the circumstances in which peace rather than conflict became the normal state of human affairs: nations could prosper and enrich themselves through trade rather than the plunder of neighbours in a zero-sum world.
If the likes of Extinction Rebellion were to get their way, it is something like that bleak past which would be revisited upon us. And the political forces emerging from that would be truly terrifying.
If she is still in the habit of seeking their opinions, Claire Perry might point that out to the delusional middle-class climate warriors.