London, United Kingdom: Thousands of climate change demonstrators thronged central London on Monday, as environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion held a new round of protests, promising two weeks of disruption.
Protesters were greeted with a large police presence as they converged on Trafalgar Square in the heart of the British capital, where they rallied with a marching band and speeches.
The latest action — branded the “Impossible Rebellion” — saw participants block roads leading to the square, deploying a large pink structure bearing the slogan “come to the table”.
“What are you waiting for? Your local area to flood, or your street to get blocked with rubble and cars?” Extinction Rebellion’s UK branch said on Twitter.
“The #ClimateEmergency is happening now, and the rebellion for life is happening now.”
The group, formed in Britain in 2018, is a network of climate activists who use civil disobedience to spotlight inaction over global warming.
“I worry about the state of our society by the time we hit old age, it’s frightening,” said Ali, a 21-year-old student.
“I hope it makes people stand and say we need to stop fossil fuel production, we need to stop car production,” said another participant, Craig, a 28-year-old paediatric physiotherapist wearing hospital scrubs.
Since holding its first protests in London in 2018, activists have repeatedly brought parts of the capital and other cities to a standstill with carnival-like demonstrations.
They have also targeted individual businesses and premises in London for direct action, including newspapers’ offices and energy companies’ headquarters.
The rallies have spread to many countries around the world.
Norway on Monday arrested 29 Extinction Rebellion activists after they blocked a major road junction in Oslo and refused to leave.
Some also broke into the oil ministry building during the first day of a planned week of civil disobedience ahead of legislative elections on September 13.
“We will stay here as long as our demands have not been met,” said Jenny Jaeger, a 21-year-old activist occupying the ministry’s reception room.
They were protesting against energy policy in Norway, Western Europe’s largest exporter of hydrocarbons, which continues to award licences for oil exploration.
Police at previous UK protests have arrested hundreds of participants, but have also faced criticism for being too lenient.
Extinction Rebellion’s latest action comes as the UK government gears up to host the crucial COP26 United Nations climate summit in the Scottish city of Glasgow, in November.
It is set to draw thousands of delegates — and demonstrators — from around the world.
Global leaders are under renewed pressure to agree radical policy changes at the summit following the publication this month of a UN climate science report called “terrifying” by campaigners.
It warned the world is on course to reach 1.5C of warming around 2030, much sooner than once predicted, and set to cause dire fallout impacting every continent.