Furious commuters drag Extinction Rebellion protesters from top of Tube

Alix Culbertson, news reporter

Angry commuters have pulled Extinction Rebellion protesters from the top of a Tube as activists disrupted services across London.

At Canning Town station in east London dozens of commuters were seen pulling two campaigners, dressed in jacket and tie, from the top of a Jubilee Line Tube train after they unfurled a banner which said "Business as usual = death".

The pair used a ladder to climb onto the roof, prompting an immediate reaction from commuters, including one who threw his sandwich at them. A drink was also hurled at one of them.

One Tube user reportedly shouted: "I need to get to work, I have to feed my kids."

As one of the protesters kicked a commuter to stop him from climbing up the carriage, the man managed to grab the activist's leg and pull him to the ground.

The two protesters were then seen being attacked on the platform by the campaigners before they were arrested.

Elliot Laughlin, who was livestreaming the incident for the Extinction Rebellion Facebook page was beaten up by the crowd before some commuters helped him.

He said members of the angry crowd turned on him when they thought he was a member of the climate change group.

He told Sky News: "I had five people throw me off a chair where I was stood up filming, I fell to the floor and my glasses were knocked off, and then others joined in and I was getting kicked and hit.

"I managed to grab my glasses and phone, which were smashed, and remembered being told that if you ever get kicked like that to curl up in the fetal position.

"I just rode it out, and after 60 seconds of incurring blows on my head, shoulders, legs and back, a nice man I was having a debate with earlier and a few others helped get them off me - and I'm very grateful to the three Londoners who did that."

At Shadwell station, also in east London, Reverend Sue Parfitt, a 77-year-old Anglican priest from Bristol, and Friar Martin Newell, 52, a Catholic priest from Birmingham, climbed on top of a DLR train destined for The City.

A fellow member of Christian Climate Action - the Christian arm of Extinction Rebellion - superglued himself to the side of the train.

Ex-parole officer Phil Kingston, 83, then knelt down on the platform with two other members of the group and held a prayer vigil.

Northampton shoemaker Nick Cooper, one of those who took part in the protest, apologised for affecting people's daily lives, but said disrupting trains to one of the "economic powerhouses of the world" is the "only thing which those in positions of power will listen to".

The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) was part suspended and the Jubilee Line was experiencing delays following the incidents.

British Transport Police (BTP) tweeted officers had made eight arrests "at the obstruction incidents" at Canning Town and Stratford stations on the Jubilee Line, and at Shadwell on the DLR.

A statement from Extinction Rebellion said the group was "regretful" and "sad" about the violence at Canning Town.

It added: "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.

"To those that engaged in violence, we acknowledge that we disrupted your life today.

"Rather than let this incident divide - at this moment of heightened attention - we think it is right to reach out to you, to invite you to have a conversation about what happened today.

"In light of today's events, Extinction Rebellion will be looking at ways to bring people together rather than create an unnecessary division."

A protest was planned at Gatwick Airport after the train stunts, but it appeared to be a smaller affair than predicted, with a group of about 20 activists handing out flyers to passengers passing through the terminal.

The protests came as activists defied a London-wide protest ban.

Leading activists, including George Monbiot and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, are bringing a case to the High Court seeking to overturn the order on Thursday on behalf of the climate change protesters.

Lawyers representing the activists will argue in the preliminary session that a full hearing of the case should happen "as a matter of urgency" as they will say the section 14 order imposed by the Met Police, effectively banning all XR protests in London, is unlawful.

BTP said it is increasing the number of visible patrols across London Underground, the DLR and other rail networks throughout the day to keep trains moving, and said targeting the Underground network is dangerous for both protesters and commuters.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he "strongly condemns" the protests targeting the London Underground and DLR.

"This illegal action is extremely dangerous, counterproductive and is causing unacceptable disruption to Londoners who use public transport to get to work," he said.

"It is also an unfair burden on our already overstretched police officers.

"I urge demonstrators to protest peacefully and within the boundaries of the law."

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The BTP's Assistant Chief Constable Sean O'Callaghan said the force was "really disappointed" activists had chosen to target the London Underground network.

"The Tube and rail networks are one of the greenest transport methods in London, any action goes against what they campaign for and will only cause misery for London's commuters."

Were you at any of the stations disrupted by Extinction Rebellion protests today?

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