Commuters who attacked Extinction Rebellion Tube protesters could face police investigation - latest news

Gareth Davies
A protester hands out leaflets in the South Terminal at Gatwick Airport - PA

The actions of commuters who dragged Extinction Rebellion Tube protesters from the roof of a train are being investigated by the police as it emerged one of the activists is a Buddhist teacher. 

British Transport Police have made eight arrests after protesters climbed on top of roofs of Underground carriages on Thursday morning. 

But those on the platform blocked from going to work who "took matters into their own hands" could be investigated by police, who said their actions were "unacceptable".

One of the two activists who climbed on top of a train at Canning town can exclusively be revealed as Mark Ovland, who had already been arrested and released "several times" this week.

The 36-year-old has been identified as the man chased along a train roof before being pulled down onto the platform.

He describes himself as a full-time Extinction Rebellion protestor who gave up his Buddhist studies to devote himself to climate change action.

The backlash to the demonstrations turned nasty on Thursday morning when Mr Ovland and another protester was dragged from the roof of a Tube train by angry commuters. 

Activists targeted Canning Town station as Londoners set about getting to work - a move that has been condemned by Mayor Sadiq Khan.

And in a body-blow to the climate change group, Scotland Yard's blanket ban on their protests will stay in place all week after a High Court judge ruled a judicial review into its legality cannot be heard until Monday. 

Watch the video in full below:

Stay with us to follow the latest from the Extinction Rebellion protests.

3:41PM

Another body-blow for XR as Scotland Yard's blanket ban remains in place all week

This was the day the activists believed they would overturn Scotland Yard's blanket ban on all Extinction Rebellion protests in London. 

But in a body-blow to the climate change group, a High Court judge ruled that a judicial review into the police's move could not be heard until next week.

3:31PM

Gatwick protests scaled back

Gatwick Airport was due to be the big target for Extinction Rebellion today. 

But after this morning's Tube stunt was met with such anger, the group scaled down their action at the Sussex airport which was shut down by drone sightings over the Christmas period. 

Instead of the chaos that gripped City of London Airport last week, a small group of Extinction Rebellion protesters has gathered at Gatwick Airport, despite the environmental group calling off the planned protest at the airport.

Members of Extinction Rebellion were seen on Thursday afternoon handing out leaflets.

A protester hands out leaflets in the South Terminal at Gatwick Airport Credit: PA
A climate activist wearing a mask of US President Donald Trump hands out leaflets Credit: AFP
A flautist joins protesters in the South Terminal Credit: PA
A small group of protesters singing in a semi-circle Credit: PA

 A flautist also played and a small choir gathered in the airport's south terminal.

2:59PM

A second, grovelling apology from XR

It wasn't the ideal preparation for the climate group's big day in court, where they are challenging the blanket ban on XR protests in London. 

At 2.40pm, organisers released a new apology. 

It read: 

It is regretful that there was violence at today’s action at Canning Town tube station. We would like to express our sadness that events escalated this way.

We are aware that one of our activists responded in self-defence in a moment of panic when confronted by a threatening situation.

He acknowledges his accountability for this action and we offer gratitude for members of the public who helped to protect him. 

To those that engaged in violence, we acknowledge that we disrupted your life today. 

Rather than let this incident divide – at this moment of heightened attention – we think it is right to reach out to you, to invite you to have a conversation about what happened today.

In light of today’s events, Extinction Rebellion will be looking at ways to bring people together rather than create an unnecessary division. 

The people involved today did not take this action lightly. They were a grandfather, an ex-buddhist teacher, a vicar and a former GP among others who acted out of rational fear for the future as this crisis deepens.

We are aware that this action was divisive. We are a broad and diverse movement with a wide range of views, and are aware that many people were not for this action.

Those that acted this morning planned their action autonomously, within Extinction Rebellion’s principles and values, centred around nonviolence and compassion. 

Extinction Rebellion remains fully committed to nonviolence and will continue to put ourselves in vulnerable situations to highlight the climate and ecological emergency we face. It is unfortunate that something like this has to happen for this to become ‘newsworthy’. 

This follows 10 days of peaceful actions in London. Extinction Rebellion’s supporters are ordinary people who are trying desperately to preserve the safety and security of all life on earth. 

2:55PM

The XR apology... that was deleted

Extinction Rebellion posted a long and grovelling apology on its London branch Facebook page on Thursday morning before deleting it. 

It read: 

To Londoners, ordinary commuters, working class citizens, black people, minority communities, humans of all ages. Please read.

You may have already heard: Extinction Rebellion activists took to the Tube and blocked Shadwell and Canning Town this morning in an effort to cause mass disruption and raise public awareness about the climate and ecological emergency. 

Firstly, we would like to sincerely apologise for the delay it took to formulate a proper response to this action. 

XR press and PR channels are still formulating an official statement that will deal with this incident in its entirety but for the sake of being transparent, we feel that we should address this issue now. 

We recognise that this action unnecessarily targets ordinary commuters and disrupts London transport - which is an eco-friendly way to travel. 

Though the affinity group (AG) organising this received feedback that majority of rebels within our movement felt as if this action sent the wrong message, our decentralised structure means that AGs are able to act autonomously and make tactical decisions to carry out actions independently. 

Having said that, our structure of decentralisation is no excuse for how poorly we, as environmentalists acting on behalf of life, acting this morning. 

We did not have open dialogues about the nature of this action. 

Shadwell and Canning Town are areas of London with largely working class and highly ethnic populations. 

We acknowledge that these are communities who stand to be most affected by the climate crisis and are most vulnerable to systems of power. 

In light of this morning's Tube action, Extinction Rebellion London will take this opportunity to reflect with humility how we can improve in the future... 

...Extinction Rebellion's core principles include non-violence, and we aim to create safe and accessible spaces. 

The systematic change we are fighting for does not include interrupting and threatening people's livelihoods. 

Unfortunately, the nature of the organisation means that actions can go ahead without the full support of everybody within XR.

The violence seen at the stations today was heartbreaking to see, and is not something we want to be tied to [us] as an organisation. 

Our principles also include the value we place on reflecting and learning, and we would like to take this time to say that this what we will focus on following this morning. 

Today's action was a learning experience for Extinction Rebellion as an organisation. 

Although we are pushing for disruption and civil disobedience, we are still learning how to do this in a way that does not result in violence, and that does not discriminate against hard-working individuals. 

2:03PM

Tube protester: 'We were targeting the city because blocking roads has not got us heard'

Ruth Jarman, 56, from Christian Climate Action, who was involved in the tube action this morning but was not arrested, said: "Ok - why we disrupted the DLR. We were targeting the city - one of the economic powerhouses of the world to cause economic disruption - because that is what those in power pay attention to.

"We have spent a lot of time blocking roads and are not being heard. People are dying now because of the climate crisis and it threatens all we love.

"We are sorry for disrupting the lives of ordinary people - we are desperate and don’t know what else to do."

1:53PM

Sadiq Khan 'angry' at 'counterproductive' protestors

Our reporter Jamie Johnson has been listening to the London Mayor speaking at the London Assembly this morning.

Sadiq Khan said that he was angry at the protesters who targeted the DLR trains this morning, calling their actions extremely dangerous, counterproductive and unacceptable.

The mayor added that he had not been consulted by the police ahead of their moves to seize Extinction Rebellion supplies or impose a section 14 order, banning their protests from London on Monday evening.

Mr Khan said: "I accept there is a climate emergency," adding that "it is really important for those who protest to do it peacefully and lawfully."

Red his quotes in full here:

12:36PM

BTP investigate 'unacceptable' commuters who 'took matters into their own hands'

ACC Sean O’Callaghan, from British Transport Police, said: "Despite our countless warnings, we are frustrated that Extinction Rebellion put people at risk to obstruct services on London’s rail network. 

"Those who obstructed services are in custody and will be dealt with robustly. This type of action is completely at odds with what Extinction Rebellion are campaigning for and we will continue to urge them to not target any rail network. 

"However, it was also concerning to see that a number of commuters took matters into their own hands, displaying violent behaviour to detain a protester at Canning Town.

"Understandably, the delay to passengers' journeys would have been annoying, but this level of response was unacceptable. We are now investigating this morning’s events at Canning Town in its entirety.

Commuters drag Mark Ovland down down from the roof of the train

"It is important that commuters and other rail users allow the police, who are specially trained, to manage these incidents.  

"Unfortunately, there is still a risk that Extinction Rebellion will target the rail network during this evenings peak.

"We will continue to have extra officers on patrol and will work to disrupt any potential criminal action before it happens."

12:23PM

The former Buddhist teacher chased over a Tube roof and pushed onto the platform

One of the activists dragged off a Tube train by furious commuters is a former Buddhist teacher who had already been arrested and released “several times” this week, the Telegraph can reveal.

Mark Ovland, 36, has been identified as the man chased along a train roof before being pulled down onto the platform.

An Extinction Rebellion spokesman confirmed Ovland’s identity and said he had already been detained a number of times by police in recent days. Each time he was released after a short time so simply returned to the protest, the spokesman said.

Mark Ovland

Ovland was one of the 12 semi-naked protestors who invaded Parliament in April, gluing themselves to the glass above bemused MPs.

He describes himself as a full-time Extinction Rebellion protestor who gave up his Buddhist studies to devote himself to climate change action.

In a recent blogpost, he wrote: "Sometimes I'm going to get that wrong, and sometimes the actions I choose to take part in won't be popular, I know that. But I'm really not in this to be popular.

"I'm in this because I love life so so much, and I want it to continue and I don't know what else to do. I'm wanting to help raise an alarm so loud that no one can ignore it."

Extinction Rebellion said he was the man who was holding a fire hose when the climate change group calamitously tried to spray the Treasury building with fake blood on October 3. 

Unfortunately for Mr Ovland, he lost his grip of the high-powered equipment and the hose flew out of control, wildly spraying passersby on the street. 

11:15AM

Extinction Rebellion to 'take stock' over continued disruption

The protest group's organisers will "take stock" over whether to continue with future disruption to the transport network after this morning's ill-advised 

XR spokesman Howard Rees, 39, said: "Was it the right thing to do? I am not sure. I think we will have to have a period of reflection. It is too early to say.

"I think we need to take stock of it."

Mr Rees, a PR worker from London, said the intention was not to "inconvenience hard-working people", and said he did not think the apparently unsympathetic mood on the platform was indicative of a decrease in public support despite many posts on the XR London Facebook page expressing concerns that the stunt was counterproductive and should not have gone ahead.

He said: "It is not our intention to target individuals or inconvenience hard-working people. We're in a life or death situation right now.

"The only thing the Government is interested in is money, so that's why the transport system was targeted.

"If you're causing disruption but people are impacted, it is nothing compared with the disruption that is coming down the line, let me tell you.

"It (the footage) was really horrifying, I'm deeply distressed by it. I'm concerned for everybody who was caught up in it.

"I really hope he (the protester) is all right. My understanding is he is in custody. I don't think it (the footage) is reflective (of the public support).

"The passive support at the beginning of last week is not what we need.

"What we need is active support, people who are willing to get arrested, and that doesn't have to come from a majority."

9:33AM

Climate change: Fake news or global threat? This is the science

The impact of humans on Earth is unparalleled, with scientists arguing our actions have tipped the planet into a new era - the Anthropocene - with fallout from nuclear bombs now written into the rocks beneath our feet, and species facing extinction at 1,000 times the usual rate.

Yet global warming could turn out to be the most devastating consequence of human progress. If temperatures continue to increase, experts forecast catastrophic sea level rises, a surge in hurricanes and cyclones, the spread of lethal disease, drought, famine and deadly heatwaves. 

Climate Change

But does the science back up these claims? Is carbon dioxide primarily to blame or could there be other causes? What role do the Sun, clouds and the oceans play? 

And, can today’s climate models be trusted when scientists have misrepresented the data in the past?

Read our award-winning Science Editor Sarah Knapton's deep dive into the issue here. It's worth your time, I promise.

9:26AM

Sadiq Khan: 'Unfair burden on our already overstretched police officers'

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said in a statement: "I strongly condemn the Extinction Rebellion protesters who have targeted the London Underground and DLR this morning.

"This illegal action is extremely dangerous, counterproductive and is causing unacceptable disruption to Londoners who use public transport to get to work.

"It is also an unfair burden on our already overstretched police officers. I urge demonstrators to protest peacefully and within the boundaries of the law."

9:23AM

Tube protests condemnation - from the Archbishop of Canterbury to XR's own spokesman

Extinction Rebellion's own spokesman has described this morning's stunt as a "huge own goal".

Attacking commuters trying to get to work has proved deeply unpopular. 

Talking to LBC, the climate change group's Fergal McEntee said the demonstrations at London Underground and DLR stations were a "huge own goal".

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby also told the station that while he supports Extinction Rebellion's aims, he has "no support" for the group's actions at the stations this morning.

9:14AM

Reverend, 77, among those arrested for Underground action

Reverend Sue Parfitt, 77, from Bristol is among the four people to have been arrested for her part in the Tube action on Thursday morning, Extinction Rebellion said.

Reverend Sue Parfitt, 77, from Bristol is arrested Credit: @lepkirk/ Vladimir Morozov/akxmedia 

She was pictured alongside another protester on top of a carriage at Shadwell Station this morning.

Extinction Rebellion action at Shadwell Station Credit: @lepkirk/ Vladimir Morozov/akxmedia 

9:08AM

Little sympathy for Tube protesters

The general mood has not been one of support for Extinction Rebellion this morning. 

David Lammy MP was one of many to voice this opinion.  

8:59AM

Protesters were told not to target Tube last night

On Wednesday night, police urged Extinction Rebellion activists not to target the London Underground as part of its protests demanding action on climate change.

British Transport Police said they had engaged with XR members to prevent the planned 'disruptive and potentially criminal' action on the transport network.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said in a statement: "I strongly condemn the Extinction Rebellion protesters who have targeted the London Underground and DLR this morning.

"This illegal action is extremely dangerous, counterproductive and is causing unacceptable disruption to Londoners who use public transport to get to work.

"It is also an unfair burden on our already overstretched police officers. I urge demonstrators to protest peacefully and within the boundaries of the law."

British Transport Police said there had been four arrests so far at Stratford and Canning Town on the Jubilee Line.

"We remain at Shadwell DLR station, where specialist teams are working to remove four other protesters," it added.

8:58AM

Extinction Rebellion's day in court

XR's bid to defy the blanket protest ban on its protests across the whole of London will come before the High Court on Thursday.

Those bringing the court action on behalf of the group, including Caroline Lucas MP and Guardian columnist and activist George Monbiot, are seeking to overturn the order imposed by the Met.

Lawyers representing the climate protesters will argue in a preliminary session that a full hearing of the case should happen 'as a matter of urgency'.

They will argue that the section 14 order imposed by the Met effectively banning all XR protests in London is unlawful.

Meanwhile BTP will increase the number of visible patrols across London Underground, the DLR and other rail networks throughout the day to keep the trains moving.

Assistant Chief Constable Sean O'Callaghan said BTP is working with partners to keep disruptions to a minimum.

He said: "We are really disappointed that they have since announced fresh action on the London Underground network.

"The Tube and rail networks are one of the greenest transport methods in London, any action goes against what they campaign for and will only cause misery for London's commuters."

8:58AM

Tide changes as Telegraph readers lose patience with Extinction Rebellion

Last week,  we asked the readers what they made of the protests taking over London this week. 

Around 6,000 of you responded with 44 percent agreeing that the demonstrations are a "waste of time" and that the activists are merely "protesting for the sake of protesting". 

But almost a quarter of readers (23 percent) said they would be out on the streets of the capital if they could be, while more than one in five (22 percent) said that while they agreed with the cause, they did not agree with the way protesters were going about raising awareness. 

One in 10 (11 percent) said they believed in people's right to protest, but did not agree with Extinction Rebellion.

On Tuesday, we asked again. 

After 1,700 votes, more than half (55 percent) said the activists were protesting for the sake of protesting. 

The 23 percent who backed Extinction Rebellion had dropped to 19 percent. 

The 22 percent who agreed with the cause last week dropped to 14 percent, while those responding that everyone has a right to protest remained relatively level, climbing one percentage point to 12.

You can still have your say here.

8:56AM

Four arrests as police condemn protesters

The British Transport Police said in a statement: "Shortly after 7am this morning (17/10) British Transport Police were called to simultaneous action by Extinction Rebellion at Stratford, Canning Town and Shadwell.

"Protesters had dangerously obstructed Jubilee Line and DLR services by either climbing on top of services or by gluing themselves to the trains.

"Four arrests have been made in connection to the Stratford and Canning Town incidents, with those detained being taken to police custody. Specialist Protest Removal Teams remain at Shadwell station, and are working to resume services as soon as possible.

"We continue to urge protesters to not target the London Underground network. This is dangerous, not only for protesters but for commuters.

"We have increased our patrols on the London Underground and at other rail hubs throughout London."