Extinction Rebellion set to end London protests with 'closing ceremony' after 12 days of blockades

Climate protesters from Extinction Rebellion have announced they will call an end to their London protest after 12 days of disruption in the capital.

The group said they will voluntarily end their blockades in Marble Arch and Parliament Square on Thursday evening, stating that “the truth is out and the real work is about to begin”.

Announcing a closing ceremony at Speaker’s Corner at 5pm on Thursday, a spokesman said: “We will leave the physical locations by a space for truth-telling has been opened up in the world.

"The truth is out, the real work is about to begin. The International Rebellion continues.

“It is now time to go back into our communities, whether in London, around the UK or internationally. This movement is not just about symbolic actions, but about building the necessary resilient and regenerative culture that the world needs now.”

Extinction Rebellion: Protesters on Waterloo Bridge (REUTERS)
Extinction Rebellion: Protesters on Waterloo Bridge (REUTERS)

However, the group also warned people to “expect more actions very soon” and said that "we all need to look within, recognise our own power, and face what is happening together".

The news came as Scotland Yard announced the total number arrested during the protests, which started on April 15, has risen by 23 - bringing the total to 1,088.

Some 22 arrests were made in Marble Arch on suspicion of breaching a Section 14 Notice of the Public Order Act 1986.

"One further arrest was made in Parliament Square on suspicion of possession of a bladed article," a police spokesman said.

"Of those arrested, 12 are women and 11 are men. They are aged between 19 and 70."

In a statement on Wednesday, Extinction Rebellion added: “We would like to thank Londoners for opening their hearts and demonstrating their willingness to act on that truth.

“We know we have disrupted your lives. We do not do this lightly. We only do this because this is an emergency.

“Around the planet, a long-awaited and much-needed conversation has begun. People have taken to the streets and raised the alarm in more than 80 cities in 33 countries.

"People are talking about the climate and ecological emergency in ways that we never imagined.”

Exintction Rebellion began their protest on April 15 (PA)
Exintction Rebellion began their protest on April 15 (PA)

The protests have seen Waterloo Bridge and Oxford Circus blocked in a bid by Extinction Rebellion to get the Government to agree to its three demands over climate change.

One of the group's demands urges the Government to declare a climate emergency to avoid what it calls the "sixth mass extinction" of species on earth.

During the protests across the capital, the group installed a boat at the junction of Oxford Street and Regent Street, where Dame Emma Thompson addressed hundreds of protesters last week.

On Easter Monday, at least 100 protesters laid down under the blue whale skeleton at the Natural History Museum in a stunt organisers called a "die-in".

XR activists in the Natural History Museum (Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images)
XR activists in the Natural History Museum (Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images)

Elsewhere, activists have glued themselves to trains, chained themselves to objects, and some could even be seen perching in hammocks up trees overlooking Parliament Square.

Members of the group have previously indicated temporarily ending disruptive tactics to focus on political negotiations.

Protester Steve Jones, 53, suggested some of the disruption may be relaxed if the group was granted "meaningful discussions" with the Government.

The group's announcement on Wednesday came as a senior Scotland Yard officer warned that police need new powers to deal with protests.

The Tell the Truth boat was taken away hours after Dame Emma Thompson spoke onboard (PA)
The Tell the Truth boat was taken away hours after Dame Emma Thompson spoke onboard (PA)

Giving evidence to the parliamentary Human Rights Committee, Commander Adrian Usher, head of the Metropolitan Police's protection command, said it should not be enough for a protest to be "peaceful" to be considered lawful.

He said the police would be conducting a review of the tactics used to deal with recent protests - including the Extinction Rebellion, which brought parts of London and other cities to a halt - and that he expected it would recommend legal change was needed.

"All of our minds are focused currently on protest both in terms of recent events connected with Brexit and of course the climate change protests that are being conducted at the moment," he said.

"We need to move away from the language of talking about peaceful protest to talk about lawful protest.

"A protest being peaceful is only one of the attributes that the police would say are a sign to a protest that make it lawful.

"We will conduct a sober review of our tactics against recent protests, but I think it is likely to say the legislation associated with policing protest is quite dated and that policing and protest has moved on and that legislation should follow suit."

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