Police make more arrests after clearing away London climate change protest

Extinction Rebellion demonstrators glue their hands together at Oxford Circus in London.

Update: Police have cleared the centre of Oxford Circus of protesters and are dismantling the pink ship.

Specialist officers wearing helmets and harnesses have taken down the mast and can be seen working on top of the boat.

Police have set up a wide cordon around the junction of Oxford Street and Regent Street with crowds of people watching the operation.

Drums and chants can be heard from the crowd, with many carrying banners and flags.

The number of people arrested in connection to the climate protest in central London has risen to 682, the Metropolitan Police said.

The force’s events unit tweeted: “So far today we have made 106 arrests. This brings the total to 682.

“The serious disruption the demonstrations are causing to people in London and beyond is unacceptable and we completely understand the concern it is causing to those who are disrupted by it.”

They have towed the pink boat at the centre of climate change protests out of the centre of Oxford Circus.

A truck was reversed into the junction and the boat turned on its frame in order to be attached to it.

While the boat was being manoeuvred into place crowds chanted “we have more boats” from outside the police cordon.

A police officer pushed a woman trying to get through the cordon, causing her to fall on her back on the street.

Two officers then escorted her away in front of an angry crowd.

Officers pulled the cordon back to the entrance of Regent Street.

An Extinction Rebellion demonstrator is carried away by police on Waterloo Bridge in London.

The pink boat has been towed out of Oxford Circus but remains behind the new cordon.

Climate change protesters have filled Oxford Circus again, with some sitting on the road.

Earlier: Police clearing London protest after Emma Thompson rallies climate change activists

Police have started carrying and leading activists away from the protest in Oxford Circus.

One woman was carried out the cordons by four officers and a man led away by two more.

An Extinction Rebellion demonstrator is led away by police as protests continue in Oxford Circus, London.

Specialist officers have entered the ring of police around the boat and started cutting protesters from the frame of the boat in Oxford Circus.

Officers wearing hi-vis jackets with protester removal team written on them are within the cordon.

There are also officers wearing harnesses and carrying boxes of equipment and protective visors.

The other protesters have sat down in the street and officers are setting up a second ring around them.

Dozens of officers are stationed beyond the group by a number of police vans parked in Regent Street.

Officers grabbed people trying to break through the police ring around climate change protesters in Oxford Circus and pushed them back.

Update: Police pushed bystanders further away from the blockade while dozens more officers moved in.

Dame Emma left the protest but told activists she was sorry she had to go.

She said it was the police’s decision to expend manpower at a non-violent protest.

She added: “If they choose to close down a non-violent protest by using their police… that’s their decision. If that causes difficulties then that’s their problem and their decision.”

Update: Police have surrounded the pink boat in Oxford Circus and the activists glued to its frame.

The other protesters have sat down in the street and officers are setting up a second ring around them.

Dozens of officers are stationed beyond the group by a number of police vans parked in Regent Street.

When asked if she was willing to be arrested, Dame Emma shrugged and said something off mic that could not be heard properly.

Police officers are not letting people into the circle around the protesters.

One officer told bystanders that there was an ordinance to clear the area.

Dame Emma climbed down from the pink boat and started talking to the activists glued to its frame.

Update: Emma Thompson, who arrived at the Extinction Rebellion protest in Oxford Circus in central London, told reporters she had come to support the movement and had been greatly inspired by it.

She said her generation and politicians had failed young people.

She added: “We have seriously failed them and our planet is in serious trouble, we have much, much less time than we thought.

“I have seen the evidence for myself and I really care about my children and grandchildren enough to want to be here today to stand with the next generation.”

“This is the most pressing and urgent problem of our time, in the history of the human race.”

When asked whether protesters were having too much fun, Dame Emma said protests should have a sense of joy.

She added: “If you can’t have fun whilst saving the planet, what’s the point?

“Protest should always have a sense of joy in it because what we are protesting about is saving this extraordinary home of ours and also celebrating the passion and inspiring energy of this young generation.

Emma Thompson at today's protest in London.

“These are young people who have finally said to my generation ‘I’m so sorry but you have failed us’.

“We all feel dreadful about that. My feeling is I feel massively inspired by this young generation and want to stand next to them.”

She ascended the ladder to the deck of the pink boat parked at Oxford Circus to cheers from the crowd and said: “We are here in this little island of sanity and it makes me so happy to be able to join you all and to add my voice to the young people here who have inspired a whole new movement.”

Dozens of officers strode into the crowd of activists at Oxford Circus and started to surround the pink boat which Dame Emma was in.

Earlier: Activists stage climate change protest at Heathrow Airport

A group of demonstrators have staged a climate change protest at Heathrow Airport.

Between 15 and 20 people, many of them aged under 17, unfurled a banner on the pavement outside the transport hub reading “are we the last generation” this morning.

The protest is part of wider demonstrations around London organised by the campaign group Extinction Rebellion (XR), which has blocked routes around Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Parliament Square and Waterloo Bridge since Monday.

Protesters stood by the tunnel that leads to Terminals 2 and 3 at the airport, but all roads around the roundabout remained open.

Extinction Rebellion said police had warned the youngsters at Heathrow that they could be arrested.

Britain's Home Secretary Sajid Javid has urged police to use the “full force of the law” to deal with illegal XR demonstrations as they enter a fifth day.

More than 500 protesters had been arrested by Thursday night as activists continued to ignore orders to leave roadblocks at Waterloo Bridge, Oxford Circus and Parliament Square.

Organisers said action would be escalated to include Britain’s busiest airport on Good Friday, with around 500,000 people expected to fly out for Easter breaks over the bank holiday weekend.

Police carry a climate activist away on Waterloo Bridge (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

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.”

Scotland Yard has warned protesters the force had “strong plans” in place with a significant number of officers ready to respond.

Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, told BBC Breakfast on Friday that protests had been “very, very difficult” for the force because it was an “alien” situation for most of them.

But he said that with more than 1,000 officers being deployed the streets will begin to be cleared.

He added: “This is very, very difficult for us because my colleagues have never come across the situation that they are faced with at the moment.

“They are dealing with very, very passive people, probably quite nice people, who don’t want confrontation whatsoever with the police or anyone else but are breaking the law.

“We are having to adjust to that, we are having to deal with the circumstances that are put in front of my colleagues, but be very robust so we can start clearing the streets and you will see that starting to happen today.”

At some stage colleagues need to have their time off, their breaks, and it needs to be paid for. We as Londoners will all suffer from what has taken place

Mr Marsh said the protests will cost millions of pounds and local communities will suffer.

He added: “This is very, very frustrating for us, this is going to cost millions.

“The sufferers will be the communities in the local boroughs where officers are being taken from the community areas and the funding and money has to be found to deal with what we are doing.

“But the knock-on effect will be that at some stage colleagues need to have their time off, their breaks, and it needs to be paid for. We as Londoners will all suffer from what has taken place.”

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”.

After a briefing from Met Commissioner Cressida Dick, the Home Secretary said: “I totally condemn any protesters who are stepping outside the boundaries of the law.

“They have no right to cause misery for the millions of people who are trying to lead their daily lives. Unlawful behaviour will not be tolerated.

“I expect the police to take a firm stance and use the full force of the law. They have my full backing in doing so.”

Mass arrests for obstructing the highway and breaching the Section 14 order that prohibits protests apart from at Marble Arch do not appear to have deterred protesters and 10 people have been charged with those offences.

Extinction Rebellion demonstrators camp near Marble Arch (Yui Mok/PA)

A further three people who were charged by British Transport Police appeared in court on Thursday morning.

Cathy Eastburn, 51, Mark Ovland, 35, and Luke Watson, 29, were remanded in custody over their alleged involvement in obstructing trains at Canary Wharf station on Wednesday morning.

Organisers said they expected more people to join the protests and warned they would continue until their demands are met.

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

Actress Dame Emma Thompson joined the protests in London after flying from Los Angeles.

In a video shared by the campaign group on Thursday, the Hollywood star urged viewers to “come and join” the demonstrations.

A representative of Dame Emma said she needed to take the 5,400-mile flight home to London after working in LA.

- Press Association

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