London protests: Police clear areas of central London as Extinction Rebellion stage Heathrow demonstration

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Police have cleared climate activists from part of the Oxford Circus demonstration as the Extinction Rebellion protests entered their fifth day.

London’s busiest shopping street remained blocked despite police efforts to clear a pink boat secured to the floor.

Dame Emma Thompson, the Oscar-winning British actor, addressed crowds on Good Friday as the campaign group declared a separate protest at Heathrow airport was over.


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About 20 activists, most of them under 17, had staged a brief demonstration on roads near the airport.

Standing close to a tunnel that leads to terminals two and three, protesters unfurled a black banner with the message: “Are we the last generation?”

One of the protesters, 14-year-old Samar from London, told The Independent: “We want to spread a message about what needs to be done by the people in power, and we’re making our voices heard.”

Several police officers watched over the group before an Extinction Rebellion spokesperson announced around midday there were no further plans to cause disruption at the airport.

All roads remained open during the demonstration, which is part of a two-week campaign that began in central London on Monday.

The choice of Heathrow on a bank holiday was surprising, given the airport is significantly quieter on Good Friday than on the average Friday, due to a sharp reduction business travel. Participants were told: “This will be standard swarming process. If there are lots of us, there will be a low risk of arrest.”

But “those interested in arrestable roles as part of this action” were invited to apply separately by email for selection.

A statement was released on behalf of Heathrow airport, which read: “We are working with the authorities to address any threat of protest that could disrupt the airport.

“While we respect the right to peaceful protest and agree with the need to act on climate change, we don’t agree that passengers should have their well-earned Easter break holiday plans with family and friends disrupted.”

Police surround environmental protesters near Heathrow yesterday (AP)

At the Oxford Circus site, Dame Emma said: “We are here in this little island of sanity and it makes me so happy to be able to join you all and to add my voice to the young people here who have inspired a whole new movement.

“We have seriously failed them and our planet is in serious trouble, we have much, much less time than we thought. I have seen the evidence for myself and I really care about my children and grandchildren enough to want to be here today to stand with the next generation.”

The Love Actually actor also challenged critics who said demonstrators are using the protests to have fun. “If you can’t have fun whilst saving the planet, what’s the point?” she asked.

“Protest should always have a sense of joy in it because what we are protesting about is saving this extraordinary home of ours, and also celebrating the passion and inspiring energy of this young generation.”


Exctinction Rebellion: Emma Thompson urges pubic to join climate protesters

Shortly after Dame Emma’s address, dozens of police officers encircled the boat and told bystanders there was an ordinance to clear the area.

Officers closed off the whole junction of Oxford Street and Regent Street, letting people out but not in.

Dame Emma left the protest before specialist officers arrived to remove people from the frame of the boat.

A handful of activists were carried or led away by officers, while people who tried to break into the cordon were pushed back.

Waterloo Bridge has now been blocked by demonstrators for five days despite the Metropolitan Police making more than 570 arrests.

Ten people had been charged by the force by Thursday night and three others arrested by British Transport Police were remanded in custody after they appeared in court accused of obstructing trains at Canary Wharf.

The Met said: “The protesters are using tactics of lying on the ground when approached. This means that it takes at least four officers to remove one person to ensure their safety, which is resource intensive.”

Routes are also blocked around Parliament Square and Marble Arch, and home secretary Sajid Javid has urged police to use the “full force of the law”.

“I totally condemn any protesters who are stepping outside the boundaries of the law,” Mr Javid said.

“They have no right to cause misery for the millions of people who are trying to lead their daily lives.”


Extinction Rebellion: Youth protesters at Heathrow read riot act by surrounding police

Ken Marsh, chair of the Metropolitan Police Federation, told BBC Breakfast the protests were “very, very difficult” to handle and could cost “millions”.

He said: “The sufferers will be the communities in the local boroughs where officers are being taken from the community areas, and the funding and money has to be found to deal with what we are doing.”

Extinction Rebellion has pledged to continue causing disruption until its demands are met. They want the government to declare a climate emergency and take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.

Additional reporting by PA

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