Thousands of protesters demanding government action on climate change shut down various bridges in London on Saturday afternoon, and police have made dozens of arrests, BBC News is reporting.
By about 4:18 p.m. local time (around 11:18 a.m. Eastern Time), London police had dispersed the crowds and reopened four of the five bridges that had been shut down. Those five bridges were Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo, Westminster, and Lambeth Bridges. Only Westminster Bridge remains closed, as of this writing.
The city-wide protests come at the end of a week of various smaller-scale protests and acts of civil disobedience in the city organized by Extinction Rebellion, a group demanding that the London and British governments take action on climate change.
“Nothing Has Brought About The Change That Is Needed”
Tiana Jacout, spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion, says that about 6,000 protesters turned up across the city for the event. She also says that shutting the bridges down was a last resort, but that if that’s what it takes to get the attention of the London and U.K. governments, then so be it.
“We have tried marching, and lobbying, and signing petitions. Nothing has brought about the change that is needed… if things continue as is, we face an extinction greater than the one that killed the dinosaurs.”
What Are The Protesters’ Specific Demands?
According to CNN, the group wants three things. First, they want want the U.K. and London governments to “tell the truth” and admit that climate change is a global emergency of the highest order. Second, they want to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2025. Third, they want the creation of a “citizen’s assembly” that would hold the government accountable for meeting those goals.
London Mayor Saddiq Khan, for his part, says that he “fully respects” the right of the protesters to have their voices heard, but he says that it must be done with “the boundaries of the law.” Khan also accused the U.K. government of “dragging its feet” with regard to climate change.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) also admits that there’s more work to be done, but that the U.K. is in the driver’s seat when it comes to European governments addressing climate change.
“We were the first country to introduce long-term climate targets under the trailblazing Climate Change Act, which has helped the country cut carbon emissions by over 40% since 1990 and encouraged other nations to follow our lead.”
As of this writing, neither Prime Minister Theresa May nor her office have publicly responded to Saturday’s protests.