Extinction Rebellion climate activists staged sit-down protests in central London over the weekend, with dozens arrested after they blocked two bridges to demand an end to the fossil fuel economy.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at Speakers’ Corner at Hyde Park on Sunday morning before marching into the city centre and “occupying” both Lambeth and Vauxhall bridges, major traffic arteries across the Thames, where they prevented vehicles from crossing.
However, they allowed ambulances and fire engines to pass, with organisers parting the crowd by shouting “blue light”.
Crowds sat in the middle of the road, waving multicoloured flags bearing the group’s “extinction” symbol and placards that read “there is no planet B” and “we want to live”, and listened to music and speakers in sunny weather.
After several hours, police cleared first Lambeth and then Vauxhall Bridge, saying 38 arrests were made in the process.
Officers told protesters there was evidence they were causing “serious disruption” to the public, warning them to leave or face arrest. Police physically removed the last of the activists, a number of whom were taken away in police vans.
The Metropolitan Police tweeted on Sunday evening: “Both demonstrations within the Vauxhall Area have now concluded and the roads have reopened. As a result of today’s policing operation we have made 38 arrests.”
Doctors and nurses from a small group of medical workers who refused to leave Lambeth Bridge were among those arrested, Extinction Rebellion tweeted.
The Met said it had imposed conditions under section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 on Extinction Rebellion to clear areas around Vauxhall Bridge.
Activist and student Kiri Ley, 21, from Birmingham, said the group was occupying the capital peacefully in order to try and force the Government to make change when nothing else had worked.
She told the PA news agency: “I know that very often people will question our tactics about disruption for example, to ordinary people, stuff like roadblocks, like gluing on, locking on, and so on.
“What I would ask people, if you make that criticism, is what actually do you suggest that we do?
“We tried all the other methods – we’ve written letters, we’ve marched, we’ve spoken to our MPs, we’ve done literally everything we can and time and time again we see them doing completely the opposite of what the scientific evidence says and this is what is left to us, really, we do it because we know it works.”
Adam, in his 60s, from York, said: “This may seem disruptive, but it is chicken feed in comparison to climate change.”
Former Love Island contestant Amy Hart tweeted a photograph of herself with protesters while on her way to the Olivier Awards, with the caption: “Extinction Rebellion have closed Lambeth Bridge so we’re literally doing the Lambeth walk oi x”.