Extinction Rebellion protester: 'I won't come down from Big Ben until Boris Johnson gives me a call'

Bill Gardner
Extinction Rebellion protester scales Big Ben tower dressed as Boris Johnson - PA

The Extinction Rebellion protestor who has scaled Big Ben has said he will refuse to come down until Boris Johnson gives him a call.

Ben Atkinson, 43, told the Telegraph he had repeatedly called Downing Street for a conversation with the Prime Minister but “the line was engaged”.

Speaking on a mobile phone from his perch on Elizabeth Tower, the tree surgeon added that breaking through security had been “easy”.

“It’s clear they’re not just underfunding the NHS, they’re underfunding Westminster security as well,” he said.

Mr Atkinson added that he disagreed with the disastrous Underground protest that led to commuters attacking two protesters at rush hour.

“That was the wrong thing to do so I’m trying to spread some positivity,” he said.

Mr Atkinson draped an Extinction Rebellion banner from the tower - currently under maintenance and surrounded by scaffolding - to "highlight Government inaction on the climate and ecological emergency".

Police could be heard repeatedly telling him to "get down for his own safety", but the activist did not listen. 

After scaling the tower, the demonstrator - who appeared to be wearing a costume and wig mimicking Prime Minister Boris Johnson - unfurled the flag and waved to the crowds below.

The protester has draped two signs from Big Ben. One has the Extinction Rebellion logo and the words "No pride on a dead planet". The other said "Citizens Assembly".

Extinction Rebellion protester scales Big Ben tower dressed as Boris Johnson Credit: PA

It is understood police had to bring in officers with specialist climbing background in order to scale the scaffolding.

Oxford Circus blocked by giant bamboo structure

Extinction Rebellion (XR) protesters blocked Oxford Circus by erecting a giant bamboo structure in the middle of the road. 

Some activists locked themselves to metal pipes in streets surrounding the busy central London landmark, causing widespread traffic disruption on Friday morning.

After the climate change groups muted Gatwick Airport demonstration on Thursday following the ill-fated attack on the Underground system, it was thought XR's activity today might be muted. 

Extinction Rebellion block Oxford Circus in central London with giant bamboo structure Credit: Sam Povey

But police rushed to the scene in the capital's West End as the disruption continued on the penultimate day of the group's two-week take-over. 

An XR spokesman said: "We are the ones we have been waiting for and we are still here, we are still rebelling, because there is no alternative. 

"In response to our actions this week, the Government responded by oppressing us. Yet they refuse to respond to the truth."

Friday is day 13 of the group's 14-day protest. On day 12, the total number of arrests in London connected to the climate change demonstrations stood at 1,711.

XR activists remanded in custody over Tube protest

An Extinction Rebellion activist who was dragged from the roof of a train during Thursday morning's Tube protest has been remanded in custody - where he could stay for two months. 

Mark Ovland was one of five in court on Friday in connection with disruption to the transport network during the Thursday morning rush hour.

British Transport Police (BTP) said Mark Ovland, 36, from Keinton Mandeville in Somerset, is charged with breaching his bail conditions when he allegedly disrupted a Jubilee Line train at Canning Town station in east London at around 6.45am.

Ovland appeared before magistrates at Highbury Corner, where he was remanded in custody pending his trial, which is scheduled for Dec 18.

He was arrested alongside another man, a 35-year-old from Filton in South Gloucestershire who was arrested on suspicion of obstructing the railway. The unnamed man has been released on bail.

Four others appeared at the same court charged in connection with an incident at Shadwell station, east London, on the DLR.

The BTP said they are: Margreit Bos, 32, of Chartham in Kent; Martin Newell, 52, of Sparkhill in Birmingham; Philip Kingston, 83, of Patchway in Bristol; and Sue Parfitt, 77, of Henbury in Bristol.

They have all been bailed.

Two other men, aged 32 and from Lewisham and Kingston Upon Hull, were each arrested at Stratford station on suspicion of obstructing the railway, BTP said. They have been released on bail.

Tube action catalyst for change of public opinion?

A snap YouGov poll also appeared to show public support for XR draining away as 63 per cent of people said they supported the commuters’ actions - which involved activists being dragged from the roof of a train.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, suggested the activists should have thought twice before targeting the working-class area of Canning Town, where "people on hourly pay might not even have a job".

A massive 13,500 Telegraph readers - and counting - have voted on our public opinion poll on Extinction Rebellion. 

Last 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". That figure has now raised to 54 percent. 

Seven days ago, almost a quarter of readers (23 percent) said they would be out on the streets of the capital if they could be. That figure slumped to just 7 percent Friday morning.

The Tube protests appear to have been massively detrimental to the public perception of the climate change group - but were the commuters right to drag the protesters off the roof? Have your say below:

XR accused of inciting graffiti

In its latest clunky publicity stunt, XR have been accused of inciting people to graffiti across London.

A poster circulated by the group for Friday's "Red Handed" protest tells its so-called rebels to use spraypaint or chalk to leave a hand silhouette on walls and pavements.

XR poster

One critic on social media pointed out: "They use environmentally damaging chemicals to remove graffiti from walls, roads and pavements that then washes down the drain, further evidence of the ecological illiteracy of Extinction Rebellion."

Another said: "Until I read the description, this does look like you're telling people to graffiti."

And even an XR supporter demanded the the group remove or edit the poster, saying:  "People are rightly concerned that this graphic, being viewed before the event description, incites graffiti with non-chalk spray as well as eco-friendly chalk spray." 

Steve Coogan joins XR rally, saying 'I just do not want to stand on the sidelines'

Steve Coogan has become the latest celebrity to support the Extinction Rebellion protest, joining activists on a march towards Whitehall.

As protests enter day 12, Extinction Rebellion is planning a "red handed" protest which will see it spray-paint handprints around Westminster.

Steve Coogan at the march Credit: PA

Coogan said: "I wanted to lend my voice to the cause. Maybe people who like what I have done and who might not be completely sold on Extinction Rebellion might give it a second chance.

"It's an important movement. Some people try to characterise it as a fringe movement, but it's not. I like the fact that it was started by young people, but now older people have joined in too.

"Climate change feels like just another issue on the agenda that people are reluctant to pay attention to. But people in Extinction Rebellion and people who seriously believe want to make it a bigger issue.

"Anyone who is against the movement is motivated purely by the bottom line.

"I have always been environmentally aware and environmentally conscious. I just do not want to stand on the sidelines and not participate. It's easy to sit and not do anything."

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