“If [politicians] are in any way serious about tackling this existential crisis then they would immediately stop financing fossil fuels because continuing to pour petrol on a fire is an obvious sign of insanity.”
Yesterday, Extinction Rebellion campaigners held a protest at one of Covent Garden’s busiest junctions to “target the root cause of the climate and ecological crisis – the political economy”.
This was the first day of the group’s planned two-week “Impossible Rebellion” campaign targeting London.
Demonstrators gathered in central London, including around Trafalgar Square, and chained themselves together to block the roundabout at Long Acre.
The protests have been mobilized to call on the government to immediately end fossil fuel investments that are driving climate change.
The push comes after the findings of the latest IPCC report spotlighted how human activity has caused ‘unprecedented’ and ‘irreversible’ damage to the environment and brought about catastrophic events such as deadly heatwaves, floods and storms worldwide.
‘Humanity has to change course’
British environmental activist Gail Bradbrook is Extinction Rebellion’s co-founder. She said: “Our leaders in Government and Business have been failing us for years, they are taking us over a cliff.
“If they are in any way serious about tackling this existential crisis then they would immediately stop financing fossil fuels because continuing to pour petrol on fire is an obvious sign of insanity.
“Why don’t they act? They are wedded to a corrupt political economy, centred in the City of London, that extracts vast profits from communities and nature, and depends on destructive economic growth for its survival.
“We need to tell the truth, humanity has to change course, we have no choice.”
Demonstrators also erected a giant four metre-high table structure emblazoned with the slogan “Come to the table” right at the junction of Long Acre and Upper St Martin’s Lane.
According to the organization, the table will stay in place for the duration of Extinction Rebellion’s planned fortnight of protest and will invite ‘everyone’ to come together to talk to each other about the biggest crisis humanity has faced.
A representative of the group said: “As floods, fire and famine break out around the world, it is clear that climate breakdown is here now, and there is no choice left now but to take urgent action.
“ Everyone deserves a seat at the table to have a say in how to tackle the greatest crisis of our times.”
‘Recalibrate, realign, revolutionise’
The group has scheduled demonstrations at St James’ Park, and Piccadilly Circus – similar to those carried out in 2019 and more protests are expected to take place in north and south London.
Celebrities, including comedian Stephen Fry and Game Of Thrones actor Jerome Flynn, have also backed XR’s campaign.
Fry in a video posted on Twitter said that the “mucky” and “disruptive” demonstrations are necessary to “make politicians really recalibrate, realign, revolutionise politics so that they face the horrors of climate change and all the damages we are doing to our planet.”
"It's going to be a heck of a fight, but unless we get together it's a fight we'll lose. So here's to you XR" @stephenfry— Extinction Rebellion UK 🌍 (@XRebellionUK) August 20, 2021
From Monday let's pull together to demand the impossible and pressure those in power to #ActNow in the face of the #ClimateEmergency.#ExtinctionRebellion pic.twitter.com/uz9D2L71fD
Meanwhile, Flynn said it was “more urgent than ever” for people to voice their opinions.
“We’ve got used to certain systems that are life destructive, we created them, we’ve become addicted to them and we know the world is burning as a result,” he said.
“It feels needed and more poignant and more urgent than ever to come together.
“It’s time to collaborate, there are so many things that are trying to polarise us and pull us apart.”
As protests got underway, the Metropolitan Police, who acknowledged the activists’ “important cause” said a “significant” operation would be put in place to manage the protests.
They arrested around 52 protestors for a “variety” of offences by the end of the day.
Matt Twist, Met’s deputy assistant commissioner said: “We’ve got a significant operation in place lead by an experienced command team to effectively provide a proportionate response to what is going to be a protracted demonstration over two weeks.
“We understand why this is such an important cause, no one is oblivious to that, what we don’t want is for people who are protesting to impact on the rights of others.
“We don’t want serious disruption caused to London – the August bank holiday is one of the busiest of the year and we know this will mean officers are extracted from their local boroughs and brought into the centre of London to deal with this protest.”
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