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XR ‘rebels’ target the West End in fresh protests

Climate change activists block Oxford Circus

27 August, 2021 — By Tom Foot

Extinction Rebellion protesters in Oxford Circus. Photos: XR Global Media

THE climate emergency is back on the political agenda after environmentalist “rebels” took over the West End, again demanding urgent action.

More than 40 women from Extinction Rebellion blocked Oxford Circus glueing themselves to a giant table and forming a human chain at a police cordon on Tuesday.

The table, the focal point of the latest wave of demonstrations calling for sit-down environment debates to take place, was seized by police.

But the protests – which the city council leader says are unacceptable – are continuing with numbers in the West End similar to the last major actions by XR in 2019.

Earlier in the week Cambridge Circus and Long Acre in Covent Garden had been hit by protests and the Brazilian embassy off Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, and Department for International Trade in Victoria, were also targets.

The protesters put oiled marks on Selfridges, occupied the McDonald’s branch in Leicester Square, and flooded phone lines of Barclays bank in protest at fossil fuel investment.

The XR rebels say the political system is broken as it is failing to respond fast enough to the climate crisis that they say threatens the end of the world.

Hester, 41, who is a mother of three, said: “I’ve campaigned for climate action for 20 years and I am exhausted. I have three children and know many women who refuse to bear children into this dying world. I have no power, influence, wealth, title, or celebrity. But when we take action together, in great numbers, we can be powerful. Women all over the world must take their seat at the table.”

Studies have shown that women are leading the way in the fight against the climate crisis with women in government positions more likely to sign up to international treaties to reduce global warming than men.

Westminster City Council says the environment and air quality is at the top of its agenda. But council leader Rachael Robathan said the protests had gone a step too far and that she had “deep concern” about the disruption to businesses.

In a letter to the Deputy Mayor of London for Policing and Crime, Sophie Linden, she said: “Scenes of blocked-off streets and inaccessible businesses do not encourage people to come into the West End, to visit a museum, meet a friend for a meal, go shopping, or more generally enjoy the depth and diversity and diversity of culture and entreatment that we have to offer. We appreciate the police have to strike a difficult balance to facilitate lawful protest. Our council officers work closely with them to manage these events but the right to protest cannot be to the detriment of others’ lives and livelihoods.

“I would welcome clear action from the police to improve access for our residents, businesses, and those visiting our city.”

Dozens of XR rebels were carried away by officers and more than 200 arrests have been made in the first of two weeks of protest.

West End ward councillor Pancho Lewis said the “world was on fire” and the government needed “to stop equivocating” and heed the demands. “They have a simple ask, end new fossil fuel investment,” he said in a tweet to Conservative London Assembly Member Tony Devenish.

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