Climate change protesters remain out in force in London as almost 700 arrested

Climate change protesters at four key sites in London remain out in force over the Easter weekend as the number of arrests tipped 700.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) demonstrators will observe a candlelit vigil on Saturday evening followed by an Easter Sunday feast the following day.

Greta Thunberg, the teenage founder of the school strikes against climate change is expected to address the protesters on Easter Sunday.

The 16-year-old Swedish activist is due to meet senior British politicians next week having already met with Pope Francis and addressed the EU Parliament.

Activists who have set up a garden on Waterloo Bridge showed no signs of shifting under the hot sun, watched on by tourists and families enjoying the end of the school holiday.

Sites at Oxford Circus, Marble Arch and Parliament Square are also occupied, despite the removal by police of the pink boat which had acted as a natural focal point for the movement.

Police say more than 715 people have now been arrested, six days in to the XR protests, and 28 people have been charged.

Police with Extinction Rebellion demonstrators at Oxford Circus  (Yui Mok/PA)
Police with Extinction Rebellion demonstrators at Oxford Circus (Yui Mok/PA)

Members of the group said they were aware that some arrested demonstrators had been taken outside of London due to a lack of custody space.

One demonstrator said she had been told that some people had been taken to Brighton and Southampton.

With the pink boat no longer at Oxford Circus, supporters have sat down in a circle at the centre of the junction.

The vessel has been replaced by two demonstrators holding a sign “We are the boat” after it was removed by police on Friday after five days.

Police follow a lorry which is towing away the Extinction Rebellion movement’s ‘Tell the Truth’ boat (Yui Mok/PA)
Police follow a lorry which is towing away the Extinction Rebellion movement’s ‘Tell the Truth’ boat (Yui Mok/PA)

Earlier on Saturday, about 50 police officers surrounded the group who said they had been told they could remain until “no later than 10.30am”.

One demonstrator said: “Holding the space is important and being arrested is not undignified.

“We are here for an important reason, so we should be prepared to be removed for that. Being arrested is a statement.”

Another demonstrator countered: “Dignified withdrawal is an option.”

However, within minutes police numbers had dwindled, and demonstrators continued to occupy the road.

It comes as a video of police officers dragging demonstrators along the ground by the arms on Friday emerged, after Home Secretary Sajid Javid urged police to use the “full force of the law”.

In the footage, a woman is seen being dragged along the road close to Oxford Circus by a police officer who then stumbles and falls over, knocking his hat off.

Another officer is seen dragging a man sideways.

It is one of the more aggressive encounters between police and demonstrators, which have so far remained largely good natured and peaceful.

XR tweeted that the movement was “peaceful and non violent”, adding: “We face a climate and ecological emergency. Now is not the time to be on the wrong side of history”.

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.

- Press Association

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