UK police say they will prevent repeat of climate-change protest chaos

By By Matthew Green
FILE PHOTO: Climate change demonstrators hold placards during a march supported by Extinction Rebellion outside the Houses of Parliament in London

By By Matthew Green

LONDON (Reuters) - Climate activists Extinction Rebellion will not be allowed to repeat the kind of disruption they caused in London earlier this year when they hold fresh demonstrations in October, police said on Thursday.

Thousands of supporters of the movement occupied four sites in central London for 11 days in April, pushing climate change up the political agenda with one the largest civil disobedience campaigns seen in Britain in decades.

Police said they had been forced to divert officers from tackling crime and policing neighbourhoods to deal with the protests - which including using a pink sailboat to block Oxford Circus, a major thoroughfare and shopping centre.

"We thought that April was wholly unacceptable," Laurence Taylor, deputy assistant commissioner of London's police, told reporters at the force's New Scotland Yard headquarters.

"It went well beyond the realm of what was reasonable and we would not tolerate that level of disruption again."

Extinction Rebellion says it wants to cause even greater disruption in October than it did in April, when protests included stopping trains, defacing the offices of oil major Shell<RDSa.L> and demonstrating outside Goldman Sachs <GS.N.>.

Laurence also warned the group against any attempt to disrupt London's Heathrow Airport. Extinction Rebellion has said it is considering a plan to force the airport to ground flights by flying drones at head height in an exclusion zone outside the perimeter to avoid posing any danger to aircraft.

"We will absolutely not tolerate incursions into the airport, endangering the aircraft or disrupting the daily management of Heathrow," Laurence said.

Extinction Rebellion wants to use non-violent civil disobedience to force governments to cut carbon emissions and avert a climate crisis that it says will bring social collapse. In Britain, it has sought to maintain momentum this week by holding a "summer uprising" of smaller-scale protests in London, Leeds, Glasgow, Cardiff and Bristol.

Laurence said the Metropolitan Police arrested more than 1,150 people during the April protests and around 180 have been charged so far.

"We absolutely respect people's fundamental right to protest, but we do not accept that extends to causing misery and mass disruption to everybody," Taylor said.

Extinction Rebellion has won the backing of scientists, researchers and academics who worry that the official response to climate change is lagging far behind the severity of the crisis.

Six activists were arrested on Tuesday after Extinction Rebellion disrupted London Concrete, the British capital’s biggest supplier of ready-mixed concrete.


(Reporting by Matthew Green; Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Stephen Addison and Frances Kerry)