Extinction Rebellion called the clashes between protesters and commuters at a tube station on Thursday “regretful” as the group admitted the incident was “a huge own goal”.
Ugly scenes erupted at Canning Town early on Thursday morning after eco-demonstrators climbed on top of a train at the east London station.
Viral footage showed one of the Extinction Rebellion protesters kicking a commuter in the head as people clambered to tear him from the roof of the carriage.
XR spokesperson Fergal McEntee told LBC’s Nick Ferrari on Friday morning that he thought the strike had been a “huge own goal”.
"Public support for this isn't going to be very good,” Mr McEntee said.
"It highlights the fact that public transport is vital and it's an area we're not going to get any public support over."
An official statement released by Extinction Rebellion on Friday morning called the protest “divisive” and said several of its members had acted “autonomously”.
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But it maintained that the actions were planned within their core principles of compassion and non-violence.
In a statement, Extinction Rebellion said: “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.”
The group apologised for the disruption caused to commuters, but said the incident should not create “unnecessary division”.
British Transport Police said eight people had been arrested on suspicion of obstructing the railway on Thursday morning, and also urged commuters not to “take matters into their own hands”.
British Transport Police also said they were investigating the response from commuters, and acting chief constable Sean O’Callaghan added: “It is important that commuters and other rail users allow the police, who are specially trained, to manage these incidents.”
According to The Sun, the Extinction Rebellion protesters involved in the incident included a former monk and a bookkeeper.
James Mee, 35, was the man seen being pulled from the roof by furious passengers at Canning Town in East London before being jeered and roughed up.
The stunt was reportedly led by Mark Ovland, 36, who gave up his full-time Buddhist teacher training studies earlier this year to join the group.
In a video obtained by the newspaper, Mr Ovland said Thursday’s protest was intended to "create a response where people have to get off the fence".
He argued Extinction Rebellion was "using the transport system to raise the alarm".