LONDON (Reuters) – Thousands of climate activists hit the streets in cities on Monday and began two weeks of peaceful civil disobedience calling for immediate action to reduce CO2 emissions and avert an ecological disaster.
Protesters of the Extinction Rebellion demonstrate at Trafalgar Square in London, UK, October 7, 2019. REUTERS / Peter Nicholls
In London, police arrested 135 activists from the Extinction Rebellion group as they blocked bridges and downtown streets They clung to cars, while demonstrators in Berlin stopped traffic at the roundabout of the Victory Column.
The Dutch police came to arrest more than 100 climate change activists who blocked a road in front of the country's National Museum, and there were similar protests in Austria, Spain, New Zealand and Australia.
"I'm sorry we blocked the road, but this is an emergency," activists said in Amsterdam.
The protests are part of an international two-week campaign coordinated by Extinction Rebellion. This campaign group became known in April when it disrupted traffic in central London for 11 days.
They are the latest in a series of climate change demonstrations. Last month, millions of young people flocked to the streets of cities around the world, inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.
Extinction Rebellion expects peaceful protests in more than 60 cities from New Delhi to New York over the next two weeks to urge governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025 and stop the loss of biodiversity.
Protesters in London conquered Trafalgar Square and marched down the mall leading to Buckingham Palace. They carried banners with slogans such as "Climate change denies our children a future if we do not act now".
"We are here because the government is not doing enough for the climate emergency," said protestor Lizzy Mansfield in London. "We have only one planet and that's why we're here to defend it."
The police chiefs said they would mobilize thousands of officers last week to arrest the protests in London and anyone violating the law would also be arrested as part of non-violent civil disobedience.
On Saturday, officers with a battering ram entered a building in south London where activists had kept materials they had used during the protests. Eight people were arrested during the raid.
"OUT OF TIME"
Activists sang at the Victory Column roundabout near Berlin's Tiergarten "Feast like a stone, rooted like a tree" at dawn, defying the icy temperatures in Berlin.
At sunrise, some slept in isolated bags in the middle of the traffic circle as the police passed motorbikes. There were no arrests and the protest remained peaceful.
The police blocked the five roads converging on the roundabout to prevent cars and buses from reaching the demonstration, as this would have caused traffic chaos during rush hour traffic.
Around noon, the protest had increased to 4,000 people, one policeman said, and a second main roundabout was also blocked by activists sitting in the middle of the street.
The rally took place when German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the climate change measures which her government is due to approve on Wednesday and which critics have condemned as ambitious.
In Amsterdam, policemen set up empty city buses to take along the arrested demonstrators as they attempted to clear an important thoroughfare in the afternoon.
"The climate crisis is not taken seriously enough by politics and also by companies. That's why I joined, "said a protester who named himself Christiaan.
In the meantime, activists in London wearing partly yellow hard hats with painted "Rebel at Work" stuck to cars parked in the middle of streets or street lights, making it difficult for police officers to hold on to them.
"We have no time left, we need to act now," said a demonstrator named Benjamin.
Reporting by Reuters Offices in London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Vienna, Sydney and Madrid; Writing by David Clarke; Editing by Pravin Char