Londoners face a fourth day of disruption as environmental protesters vow to maintain roadblocks across the capital despite nearly 400 arrests.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said “we’ve got the message” after some Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists glued themselves to a train and others chained themselves to Jeremy Corbyn’s garden fence.
Scotland Yard said more than 100 people were arrested on Wednesday, bringing the total to almost 400 as ongoing protests continue in Parliament Square, Waterloo Bridge, Oxford Circus and Marble Arch.
On Wednesday night, campaigners were playing a cat-and-mouse game with police, who promised to continue the operation overnight.
The Metropolitan Police could not confirm whether or not anyone had been charged with any criminal offences, while some of those released from custody rejoined the protests.
Activists said they plan to continue roadblocks, which have affected more than half a million people with traffic gridlock and disruption to transport and businesses since Monday, until at least next Friday.
We’re facing a climate emergency. I fully support the right of protesters to protest on this vital issue, and urge organisers to work with police to ensure their demonstrations are peaceful and lawful and that disruption is kept to a minimum. pic.twitter.com/kwlcmIwCks
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) April 17, 2019
Robin Boardman-Pattison, 21, who walked off during an interview with Sky News, said activists were planning to step up action on the rail and London Underground network.
“We will be escalating our disruption throughout the week,” he said. “The impact to the Tube system will grow.”
Asked about the protests on the BBC’s The One Show, Mr Gove said: “I think it’s appropriate for people to make their feelings known but I also think, we’ve got the message, we understand that action needs to be taken.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said on Twitter: “We’re facing a climate emergency. I fully support the right of protesters to protest on this vital issue, and urge organisers to work with police to ensure their demonstrations are peaceful and lawful and that disruption is kept to a minimum.”
His comments angered John Apter, the chairman of the Police Federation, who told the Telegraph that “officers are under enough pressure as it is”.
“What we don’t need, as well-intended as it might be, is a politician aggravating the situation and making it worse,” said Mr Apter, whose organisation represents rank-and-file officers.
“The likes of Sadiq Khan should be supporting the police, especially when we are having to deal with rising crime on our streets.”
XR, who are demanding a meeting with the Government, says direct action is needed to force authorities to act urgently on climate change and wildlife declines and halt a “sixth mass extinction”.
TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham joined protesters at Oxford Circus on Wednesday, saying: “I believe the world’s leaders are not acting urgently enough to avert a climate catastrophe.
“As long as it is peaceful and democratic then they can count on my support.”
But a YouGov poll suggested public opinion has swung against the protests.
The survey of 3,561 British adults showed 52% either “somewhat oppose” or “strongly oppose” the action, compared with 36% who “strongly support” or “somewhat support” it.
Some Londoners were critical of the group’s methods, which are causing disruption to their lives.
Music student Anouska Stahlmann, 20, said her ill mother and elderly grandparents had to walk part of their journey because of the risk of getting stuck in a tunnel while on the Tube.
“I have no issue with wanting to better the environment and we’re fairly conscious of it as a family,” she said.
“Their methods, however, are seriously flawed and are not inclusive of people who want to support the cause.
“I find it awful they’re disintegrating into a rent-a-mob mentality.”