'Business as usual can't continue' - climate activists close city street
PUBLISHED: 15:24 22 September 2019 | UPDATED: 10:01 23 September 2019
Climate crisis activists blocked off a Norwich street on Sunday to mark World Car Free Day as they claimed the council's response had been a 'token gesture'.
Members of Extinction Rebellion - a protest group which aims to highlight the climate crisis through civil disobedience - blocked off St Peter's Street outside City Hall from around 9am.
The family-friendly environment included chalking, dancing, music and parachute games.
There were also speeches and debates throughout the day.
Jamie Osborn, XR activist and city councillor for the Greens said the city council had "failed to prioritise" car free day.
"If they really want a zero carbon city and get it to move forward in a car free way and with greater space for pedestrians and cyclists, they have to prioritise that," he said.
"This is a really easy road to close and it is symbolic because it is at the heart of the city and the marketplace.
"It is not just about disrupting business as usual, which you can understand them being anxious about. But they have to accept business as usual can't continue.
"Air quality is actually at illegal levels in parts of the city such as St Augustine's Street and Anglia Square, which is why we need better public transport.
"They are taking small steps but we need big change. We haven't got long enough left for small steps.
The event was supported by The People's Assembly and Norwich Cycling Campaign, who came to give speeches or get involved.
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Mr Osborn added people who oppose disruption are "a very small minority".
"Actually the majority of people say climate change should be one of the top priorities an they want to see action," he said.
"4,500 people turned out to the climate strike in Norwich on Friday. We are talking to council leaders and Extinction Rebellion will be looking very closely to see if the steps they are taking are sufficient."
In April Extinction Rebellion disrupted roads in the centre of London, and they plan to return in October.
Alex Deeley of the People's Assembly was leading a discussion on the effects of climate change on health.
"There is a sense of paralysis in a lot of political institutions where they do not want to be the first to act," he said. "People need to understand how important the climate crisis is.
"We are talking about mass devastation and mass water shortages."
He said Extinction Rebellion meetings had swollen from 20 to 60 people and they "always get new people at every meeting".
"We seem to be getting a lot of positive feedback and it is a family friendly event," he said. Civil disobedience is actually really easy to do, and everyone can join in."
Kevin Maguire, the city council's cabinet member for safe and sustainable city environment, said: "We're really surprised and disappointed about this as we've met with them on a number of occasions and believed we had a shared understanding about the day. They have obviously changed their minds.
"We remain committed to promoting car free day. Part of this has involved waiving fees for community road closures as well as encouraging people to leave their cars at home.
"Car free day isn't just about one single day this year. It's about how it can evolve and grow."