Extinction Rebellion: Met chief condemns 'miserable disruption' caused by protests

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick has condemned the "miserable disruption" inflicted on Londoners by Extinction Rebellion - telling demonstrators to protest lawfully or go home.

She vowed that police will continue to make arrests and dismantle furniture blocking the capital's roads on a busy Easter weekend.

Ms Dick said she had never known a single police operation where so many arrests have been made - with more than 750 people detained since the climate change protests began last week.

She added: "I have never - I've been a police officer for 36 years - I have never known an operation, a single operation, in which over 700 people have been arrested.

"It shows we are determined and we will carry on.

"The demonstration has had an impact on the police and Londoners in general. Lots of people have had miserable disruption to their lives."

In a message to the protesters, the Met's most senior officer said: "Please go to Marble Arch where you can protest lawfully. Stop your unlawful protests. And if you don't want to go to Marble Arch, then go home."

The commissioner said that the blocking of routes in Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge had affected businesses and that "people are losing money". She said it was affecting everybody in the West End.

Defending the Met, which has come in for heavy criticism for not clearing the protesters after almost six days of demonstrations, Ms Dick said she was proud of her officers but they had to work within the law.

On her police force, she said: "They have been doing a fantastic job and I am extremely proud of them. We have arrested over 700 people and will continue to arrest people.

"We haven't seen anything quite like this in this city or around the country before, in terms of scale, in terms of complexity, and in terms of the tactics that the protesters are using to break the law."

Ms Dick said the Met was being supported by "hundreds of other officers from other forces" - and though custody suites in the capital were busy, they were not yet full.

There have been reports some of the people arrested have been taken out of London.

The Met Police commissioner added that people would be "furious" if next Sunday's London Marathon is disrupted by Extinction Rebellion.

On Saturday, police stepped up their operations to clear Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge.

Scotland Yard has specifically requested for forces in South East England to provide a "protest removal team" and several "basic deployment units".

At a lorry on Waterloo Bridge, officers were seen around and underneath the truck as they tried to remove campaigners attached to the vehicle.

Over the sound of cutting equipment and hammering, singing could be heard from one protester as officers worked to free them and at least four others.

As three officers carried a female campaigner away at about 5pm on Saturday, there were shouts of "we love you" from the protesters gathered on the other side of the police line.

Following cries and protests from one of the campaigners under the vehicle, a man was brought out by officers, placed in handcuffs and then put onto a stretcher before being carried away.

A sign close to one of the wheels of the lorry read: "Caution, my hand is glued."

At least five officers worked under the truck to free the remaining protesters, with a number still on the roof.

By about 5.50pm on Saturday, police had removed all six of the campaigners in an operation that took almost six hours.

On Friday, police dismantled the pink ship in the centre of Oxford Circus which had been a focal point for climate change protesters this week, saying it wanted to give businesses in London's Oxford Street a chance to return to "business as usual".

The boat, which is named after murdered environmentalist Berta Caceres, was dismantled several hours after Dame Emma Thompson used it as a stage to rally protesters.

Meanwhile, the teenage founder of the recent school strikes against climate change has said she hopes to join the protesters when she arrives in London over the Easter weekend.

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish activist, is due to meet senior British politicians next week having already met with Pope Francis and addressed the EU parliament.

She told The Guardian: "I would love to participate in their protests while in London if there is time and if they are still protesting.

"I think it's one of the most important and hopeful movements of our time. Civil disobedience is necessary to create attention to the ongoing climate and ecological crisis."

Extinction Rebellion has vowed to continue causing disruption until its demands are met.

These include the government declaring a climate emergency and action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.