Environmental protesters will paralyse London's roads today by creating human barricades at five landmarks.
Organisers of the Extinction Rebellion group claim up to 30,000 eco-protesters are expected to block major routes from 9am. Scotland Yard warned drivers to expect road closures and widespread disruption in the capital.
The movement, which is demanding the Government takes urgent action on climate change and wildlife declines, has been backed by actress Dame Emma Thompson and former archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams.
Climate protest group Extinction Rebellion set up camp in London's Hyde Park yesterday before today's plans for disruption
The campaigners, who include the granddaughter of a baronet, are demanding the introduction of a legally binding policy to reduce carbon emission to net zero by 2025.
They say they will continue to block key roads in London for weeks and 'escalate civil disobedience' if their demands are not met.
Humans have declared war on nature, says ex-archbishop of Canterbury
Humans have declared war on nature and put progress before the planet, the former archbishop of Canterbury said on the eve of environmental protests aimed at bringing London to a standstill.
Dr Rowan Williams said the world is in a crisis which could be called 'being at war with ourselves'.
He spoke at a meditation event outside St Paul's Cathedral in the capital attended by activists preparing to take part in mass demonstrations organised by the Extinction Rebellion group.
Sitting on the ground amid protesters who held flags and banners, he said: 'We have declared war on our nature when we declare war on the natural world.
'We are at war with ourselves when we are at war with our neighbour, whether that neighbour is human or non-human.
'We are here tonight to declare that we do not wish to be at war. We wish to make peace with ourselves by making peace with our neighbour earth and with our God.'
Praying at the all-faith gathering, he added: 'We confess that we have polluted our own atmosphere, causing global warming and climate change that have increased poverty in many parts of our planet.
'We have contributed to crises and been more concerned with getting gold than keeping our planet green. We have loved progress more than the planet. We are sorry.'
Extinction Rebellion, which describes itself as a non-violent direct action and civil disobedience group, said the protests at major central London locations including Parliament Square and Oxford Circus from Monday 'will be bringing London to a standstill for up to two weeks'.
The first stage of their global 'Rebellion Week' will see human barricades at Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge, Parliament Square and Piccadilly Circus.
Their goal is to shut down vital roads and transport links, causing misery for commuters and keeping over-stretched police officers busy for hours.
The so-called festival of action will see food stalls set up and talks given in the middle of the road throughout the day. Some protesters even plan to super-glue their hands to objects in the road and each other.
One of those expected on the streets is Tamsin Omond, the granddaughter of Dorset baronet Sir Thomas Lees. The 35-year-old went to Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge.
The most prominent figure in Extinction Rebellion is Left-wing academic Roger Hallam, whose stated ambition for the group is to 'bring down all the regimes in the world and replace them', starting with Britain.
Last November, Extinction Rebellion blocked bridges across London to bring chaos to the capital.
In February, they took part in a nationwide school strike and on April 1, during one of the Brexit debates, a group of their protesters stripped off in the House of Commons.
Speaking at a meditation on the eve of the protests Dr Williams said humans had declared war on nature.
He said: 'We are here tonight to declare that we do not wish to be at war. We wish to make peace with ourselves by making peace with our neighbour Earth and with our God.'
Thompson has previously said of the demonstrations: 'It is time to stand up and save our home.'
The Met Police said it was aware of the protests.
Officers said their operational response to camping 'would be dependent on what if any other issues might be ongoing at the time'.
On April 1, during one of the Brexit debates, a group of Extinction Rebellion protesters stripped off in the House of Commons
Extinction Rebellion protesters sit after pouring fake blood onto the ground in London outside Downing Street on March 9
Scotland Yard said they have 'appropriate policing plans' in place for the demonstrations and that officers will be used from across the force 'to support the public order operation during the coming weeks'.
Protests across Europe
Today will see people in at least 80 cities in more than 33 countries hold similar climate demonstrations.
The first protest of the day was held at Schuman Square in Brussels this morning as protesters formed a human 'XR' logo - the same as that of Extinction Rebellion.
The Extinction Rebellion 'Rebellion Week' begins at Schuman Square in Brussels today as protesters form a human 'XR' logo
Police advised people travelling around London in the coming days to allow extra time for their journey in the event of road closures and general disruption.
A spokesman for the organisers said: 'The International Rebellion begins and Extinction Rebellion will be bringing London to a standstill for up to two weeks.
'They will be blocking five of the city's busiest and most iconic locations in a non-violent, peaceful act of rebellion where they invite people to join them for several days of creative, artist-led resistance.'
Demonstrators arrived at London's Hyde Park yesterday, some having journeyed to the city on foot in recent weeks from various parts of the UK for what is described as an 'International Rebellion'.
While organisers encouraged people to set up camp in Hyde Park overnight into this morning, they were warned they could be breaking the law by doing so is an offence under Royal Parks legislation.
A spokesman for The Royal Parks said Extinction Rebellion had not asked for permission to begin the protest in the park and that camping is not allowed.
DOMINIC LAWSON: Deluded middle-class climate warriors can't see the real danger of their bright idea
Claire Perry said her encounter with this (until now) obscure group had been 'good and productive'
Getting to see a government minister isn't easy. I'd challenge any reader to see how long it takes to persuade the civil servants manning the bureaucratic barricades to let you bend a minister's ear about whatever concerns you.
Yet somehow they found a space in the diary for a group called Extinction Rebellion (XR) to lobby the Minister of State for Energy, Claire Perry.
Ms Perry told the Mail on Sunday that her encounter with this (until now) obscure group had been 'good and productive'.
Really? Extinction Rebellion is this week launching mass protests designed to shut down or obstruct transport links, causing (more) misery to commuters and business. If that's the result of 'productive' talks, I wonder what would happen if they had gone badly.
But making Britain hell for business (and anyone who drives a car) is what Extinction Rebellion stands for. As the Energy Minister must know, its mission is to 'save the planet' by eliminating Britain's CO2 emissions entirely by 2025.
Or in other words, to reduce us to a state of mere subsistence, last seen in the pre-industrial age when life was (for the great majority) nasty, brutish and short.
As if to emphasise the primitiveness to which they wish us to return, this is the group which on April Fool's Day performed a naked protest in the public gallery of the House of Commons.
Actually, this is the only way people with such views could take part (so to speak) in parliamentary debate. Because any party which tried to get MPs elected on a policy of mass immiseration would not win a single seat. There might be some thousands of middle-class students and drop-outs sufficiently aesthetically offended by mass consumerism to vote for such a manifesto, but that would be it.
This is the group which on April Fool's Day performed a naked protest in the public gallery of the House of Commons
Unsurprisingly, the leaders of this movement tend to come from well-to-do homes, which have never experienced scarcity or privation.
The figures behind the demonstrations planned for this week include Tamsin Omond, granddaughter of the Dorset baronet Sir Thomas Lees
The figures behind the demonstrations planned for this week include Tamsin Omond, granddaughter of the Dorset baronet Sir Thomas Lees; Stuart Basden (who said his week in prison after an earlier action was 'a bit like boarding school'); and George Barda, son of the distinguished stage and music photographer Clive Barda OBE FRSA and a 43-year-old postgraduate student at King's College London.
I am distantly related to one of the inspirations for this movement, the environmentalist author and journalist George Monbiot (we are both scions of the family which created the J Lyons catering and food manufacturing empire). Monbiot is anything but a hypocrite. He leads the life he preaches to others: he doesn't own a car, never flies and, so far as I know, survives on a purely plant-based diet.
Last week, Monbiot appeared on Frankie Boyle's television show, New World Order, and was cheered by the youthful audience when he demanded action to end economic growth, adding that this meant 'we've got to go straight to the heart of capitalism and overthrow it'.
Monbiot has been consistent in this: in 2007 he wrote an article for the Guardian welcoming the prospect of a recession, even though, as he acknowledged, 'it would cause some people to lose their jobs and homes'. (He got his wish: it turned out not to be popular).
But if it's the planet you want to save, and you believe its very existence is threatened by excessive emissions of CO2, then what happens in this country is almost beside the point. The UK contributes little more than one per cent of global CO2 emissions. Even if the inhabitants of these islands were reduced by an environmentalist version of the Cambodian dictator Pol Pot to a state of pre-industrial and self-sufficient subsistence farming — no wicked imports of food via boat or plane — it would have a minuscule effect on the planet's future.
In fact, the UK — chiefly through the steady closure of the domestic coal industry — has been in the vanguard of reducing CO2 emissions: in 2018, our emissions were at their lowest levels in 120 years.
Activists from Extinction Rebellion block off a road at Parliament Square, London, during a protest in October last year
The group yesterday set up camp in London's Hyde park ahead of plans to cause widespread disruption across London later
It's not British politicians that groups such as Extinction Rebellion should be haranguing and demonstrating against, but those in the People's Republic of China. That is the nation responsible for 60 per cent of the growth in global CO2 emissions over the past decade.
And China is currently building almost 260 gigawatts of new coal-fired power generating capacity — in itself almost the size of the entire U.S. coal-fired capacity.
The trouble is the Chinese state would treat rather robustly any Extinction Rebellion activists who attempted to demonstrate on its busiest streets, or to mount a naked protest in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. I don't recommend they try that.
Nor should we be so critical of the Chinese. They, as we in the West did before them, are using cheap energy wrenched from the Earth's resources to escape from lives of almost unimaginable poverty. And it was economic growth which ultimately created the circumstances in which peace rather than conflict became the normal state of human affairs: nations could prosper and enrich themselves through trade rather than the plunder of neighbours in a zero-sum world.
If the likes of Extinction Rebellion were to get their way, it is something like that bleak past which would be revisited upon us. And the political forces emerging from that would be truly terrifying.
If she is still in the habit of seeking their opinions, Claire Perry might point that out to the delusional middle-class climate warriors.
Who's ready to get arrested? Undercover with the eco-activist group Extinction Rebellion who plan to bring London to a halt on Monday - and are as ruthlessly professional as they are deluded
By HOLLY BANCROFT FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
Cigarette break: XR training volunteer Clare Farrell
I'm sitting in a cavernous community hall in East London with a group of eco-activists huddled in thick jackets against the cold.
We’re being drilled for our arrest – like soldiers being trained for capture and interrogation by the enemy.
Our tutor is a sixtysomething woman with fuzzy white hair who knows all about civil disobedience and its legal consequences.
She explains passionately that we must not speak to the police, other than to give our name and date of birth.
We must not get drunk before the ‘action’ in just a few days’ time.
And we should consider wearing adult nappies – in case we’re locked up for hours in a police van with no access to a lavatory. Or if we decide to chain ourselves to railings, barriers or whatever else to cause maximum disruption.
Welcome to Extinction Rebellion (XR), the revolutionary protest group hell-bent on eliminating fossil fuels from Britain.
To achieve this, they are planning an onslaught of civil disobedience on a scale rarely seen in this country. And I’m here undercover as a new recruit, or ‘rebel’ as they call it.
My induction took place late last month in an anonymous office block near Euston station. I’m told XR was given the space for free by a well-placed sympathiser.
A lift takes me to the fourth floor – an open-plan space with a smattering of desks and some 40 new recruits, an even mix of male and female, all casually dressed.
A handmade poster by the lifts is daubed ‘Eco not Ego’. A large sign warns us to avoid ‘suppression juice’ – that’s alcohol – so we can ‘rebel with a clear body and mind’. Brightly coloured banners hang from the ceiling – ‘No Brexit in a dead planet’, says one – while a giant papier-mâché skeleton of some big beast lies, under construction, in the corner.
This introductory meeting is led by a bearded XR activist called Greg, who lives in a squat in West London with other members of the group. His first move is to lead us in an awkward ‘ice breaker’. Sitting in rows on school chairs, we’re instructed to stick both arms in the air and waggle from side to side, chanting ‘woo-hoo’.
Then comes a minute’s silence for ‘the dying planet’. Struggling not to laugh, I bowed my head with the others, eyes down.
‘Devote some of your brain to imagining the kind of world you want to create,’ says Greg. ‘To get through this struggle together, we need to hold tight to our dream.’
We’re asked to think of one word to describe the world we want – and shouts of ‘harmony’, ‘sharing’ and ‘green’ come from around the room. ‘Courageous’, mutters a boy in a long beige trench coat sitting next to me.
Questions follow. The volunteers are keen, but concerned.
A charity worker with short blonde hair says she is worried about XR’s policy of deliberately getting arrested.
Not that she’s against breaking the law – just that it might deter volunteers who cannot take the risk of getting into trouble.
Eating her dinner from a Tupperware box, another young woman raises concerns about XR’s links to Labour’s hard-Left Momentum faction. George agrees XR and Momentum have a good relationship.
Preparing for action: A photo of an XR meeting taken by our undercover reporter. There is no suggestion those pictured are all intending to break the law
Then we are told to get in a long line, arranged in order of willingness to get arrested. It is time to hone our tactics and strategy for the forthcoming ‘rebellion week’ – which starts tomorrow.
‘Move around the room according to what you feel,’ says Naomi, one of the lead activists.
‘The question is this: how arrestable are you in XR?’
A handful immediately place themselves at one end of the room, the extreme that signifies: ‘Yes, I really wish to be arrested right now.’ A few walk to the opposite side, meaning: ‘Absolutely not.’
I’m with the majority shuffling around in the middle amid embarrassed laughter. This position says: ‘Maybe, let’s think about it.’
They ask us how far we’ll go. Will we commit a litany of protest crimes – smashing windows, defacing buildings? Will we glue ourselves to doors or block roads using ‘swarming’ – sitting down for a few minutes at a time to stop traffic?
‘I’m comfortable with spray paint that permanently damages but not breaking windows,’ states a woman in her 30s from a refugee charity.
‘I’m somewhere between the permanent spray paint and the chalk spray paint,’ says a man studying for a PhD in environmental activism. ‘They can’t charge you with criminal damage if you use chalk paint.’
‘Training session’: XR potential recruits Greg, left, and George
After an hour or so, we’re all split up into what they call ‘affinity’ groups based on how radical they judge us to be. They don’t seem to think I’m very revolutionary.
Roles are assigned for the forthcoming ‘action’. Our group has a ‘wellbeing co-ordinator’, a ‘legal observer’ and a ‘media organiser’.
Middle-class zealots who'll make Monday a misery for millions
The most prominent – and radical – of the XR leaders is failed organic farmer and PhD student Roger Hallam
Failed farmer wants a world revolution
The most prominent – and radical – of the XR leaders is failed organic farmer and PhD student Roger Hallam.
After years in a succession of Left-wing groups, the 52-year-old says the ‘name of the game’ for XR is to ‘bring down all the regimes in the world and replace them’. Hallam (above) says paralysing traffic will eventually cause food shortages and trigger uprisings.
In a recent interview, he said XR protesters should be ready to cause disruption through personal ‘sacrifice’. If necessary, they ‘should be willing to die’.
XR co-founder Stuart Basden, 36, a middle-class writer from Bristol
Co-founder says jail's like boarding school
XR co-founder Stuart Basden, 36, a middle-class writer from Bristol (above), has goals that go way beyond a desire to curb global warming.
Indeed, he has claimed: ‘XR isn’t about the climate. You see, the climate’s breakdown is a symptom of a toxic system that has infected the ways we relate to each other as humans and to all life.’
Basden has urged XR followers to embrace going to prison – where he spent a week after defacing London’s City Hall with spray paint last year – saying it is ‘a bit like boarding school’
Tasmin Osmond, 35, is a veteran of ‘direct actions’
Veteran campaigner from baronet family
Tasmin Osmond, 35, is a veteran of ‘direct actions’ which had little to do with climate change, such as Occupy London, the poverty protest which set up a camp outside St Paul’s cathedral in 2011.
The granddaughter of Dorset baronet Sir Thomas Lees, Omond (above) went to Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge, where she read English.
She was thrown out of anti-aviation group Plane Stupid after saying the green movement ‘brand’ was ‘unwashed, unshaven and up a tree’, and this ‘doesn’t represent me’.
George Barda, 43, believes the ‘Criminal UK Government’ is to blame for climate change
Student who's on Putin's TV channel
George Barda, 43, believes the ‘Criminal UK Government’ is to blame for climate change.
A post-graduate student at prestigious King’s College in London, the son of classical music and stage photographer Clive Barda still finds time to be a dedicated revolutionary and camped outside St Paul’s cathedral in the Occupy London campaign.
Today, Barda (above) is a director of XR parent company Compassionate Revolution and regularly appears on Russia Today, Russia’s controversial British TV channel.
How far would we go for the movement? A Scottish actress in her 20s tells us she’s planning to recruit her mother. ‘I think I’d be OK with being arrested,’ she adds. ‘It’s just that I’m so in and out of the country, I work between here and Paris. I don’t know if I would be able to make my court date, so I don’t know if it would work out.’
Another young woman, a university student, says she’ll bring her harp along to keep us entertained during ‘rebellion week’. Before the meeting breaks up, the organisers call for mature women willing to be trained as ‘de-escalators’.
These are the people asked to calm down frustrated members of the public, particularly drivers, trapped in the traffic jams we’re going to cause.
Then the evening comes to a conclusion with repeated chants of ‘Extinction… Rebellion’ from the hardened activists, who then treat us to an impromptu and utterly excruciating dance.
A beat box starts blaring, one long-haired man sways expansively, arms waving out of time, the others jig about. I leave, armed with XR stickers and posters to plaster on the streets.
The group gives me constant updates through the WhatsApp messaging system, and a few days later I’m back in the office block for another training session. This time, it’s altogether more alarming.
An activist in her 20s called Jess lays out XR’s terrifying vision of the future: ‘We want to build a structure, a community and test prototypes for the coming structural collapse of the regimes of Western democracies. And we see this as inevitable – this has to happen.’
Now, we’re drawn further into the plans for illegal protest, and made to take part in role-play scenarios of activists clashing with the police.
The golden rule is to stay silent when confronted by police – unless we quote from a self-righteous prepared statement outlining our supposed right to break the law as a ‘conscientious protector’ of Planet Earth.
And we must never, ever identify any of the XR organisers in case they are charged with inciting illegal activities.
Activists who plan to ‘lock on’ by super-gluing themselves to public property are warned to expect a long wait, as few police officers are trained to dissolve the glue.
The hope is to cause the maximum amount of chaos. They might even have activists locked on at five separate protest points in London. If we are seized by the police, we must make our bodies go floppy, to tie up more officers as they attempt to carry us away.
I endure a further marathon training session at a climbing centre in North London.
We’re being addressed by the white-haired lady, who I now know is press officer Jayne Forbes. Stating her own readiness for martyrdom and jail, she tells us that: ‘I’m an older person with no responsibilities.
‘I’m prepared to go to prison and I think we are privileged in this country to have prisons that are relatively acceptable.
‘If I was living in Brazil or something, I could get killed as an activist. Our prisons are not bad compared to many in the world.’
She tells us never to agree to a caution because that would be ‘an admission of guilt’.
We must never accept the help of a duty solicitor because they would be ‘pally with the police’. I’m learning a great deal.
We’re advised only to bring an old-fashioned ‘burner’ mobile phone to the protest in case the police want to seize the device as evidence.
I’m told a paperback will help me while away the long hours in a police cell – and that I can ask for up to three blankets from the custody officers.
I now have a list of ‘friendly’ solicitors on a small sheet of paper reminding me of my legal rights. Can we get vegan food in prison? XR thinks the answer is ‘yes’.
By the time I say my goodbyes, I’m truly worried. If this week goes according to plan for Extinction Rebellion, I know that many of its members will be only too delighted to learn first-hand about the inside of our police cells and our prisons – believing they have come one step closer to making their dangerous plan a reality.