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Norwich activists arrested as police move in on Extinction Rebellion protestors in London

PUBLISHED: 08:02 18 April 2019 | UPDATED: 11:50 18 April 2019

Extinction Rebellion activists from Norwich in Parliament Square, including Dr Hayley Pinto (front). Photo: Extinction Rebellion Norwich

Extinction Rebellion activists from Norwich in Parliament Square, including Dr Hayley Pinto (front). Photo: Extinction Rebellion Norwich

Extinction Rebellion Norwich

Activists from Norwich taking part in the third day of climate change protests in London have been arrested.

Metropolitan Police near Parliament Square, Westminster, London. Photo: Joe Gammie/PA WireMetropolitan Police near Parliament Square, Westminster, London. Photo: Joe Gammie/PA Wire

Extinction Rebellion (XR) demonstrations have been taking place at Parliament Square, Waterloo Bridge, Oxford Circus and Marble Arch this week - with organisers saying protests will continue for a fortnight.

A total of 340 people had been arrested by 5pm on Wednesday, with at least four of XR's Norwich contingent now being added to that tally.

They were part of a larger group gathered in Parliament Square, said environmental consultant and former Norfolk county councillor Dr Andrew Boswell.

And Norwich XR said on Twitter: “Several members of Norwich Extinction Rebellion arrested whilst peacefully protesting to draw attention to the #ClimateEmergency. We salute and stand with you. People are waking up to the existential threat we all face, and the systemic change needed, because of you!!”

Photos and videos shared on Twitter showed large numbers of police heading towards Parliament Square.

A Norfolk doctor was among those in the square, having arrived on Sunday.

She said: “A lot of us arrived on Sunday, we camped out in Hyde Park, it was really cold, nobody slept, and on Monday we were part of the group who took Parliament Square.

“It's been absolutely beautiful, there have been children playing, because there are no cars, there's been music, it really gives you a sense of what the city could be like without cars.”

Dr Pinto, who is also chair of Climate Hope Action in Norfolk (CHAIN), said protesters had held the area since Monday, but on Wednesday police moved in and started to arrest people.

They told protesters from all groups blocking the road around it that if they do not immediately move to the pavement or grass they would be arrested.

An officer at the scene said formal conditions had now been imposed on the area, making protesters who continued to block the road liable to arrest.

In response, protesters were seen to make their bodies go limp in an effort to make them more difficult to arrest. This resulted in them being carried away by four officers each.

Dr Pinto said: “We're now sitting on one of the roads trying to hold it and we're hoping to hold Parliament Square.”

Dr Pinto said the atmosphere had been jubilant.

“We've been singing and the crowds are amazing, people are coming and giving us hot cups of tea and flapjacks.”

But she said although activists were in good spirits, there was a serious message behind the action.

She said: “We're leaving our children a death sentence, this is just going to get worse, it's a desperate situation. I've got children, I look at the future and I try to think how I can prepare my children for the future.”

Dr Pinto said her first involvement with XR was when the group blocked off London's bridges, and she was arrested as part of that.

“I sat there speaking to this officer thinking I could lose my job, my work was really good actually, but there's nothing more important than this,” she said.

“I feel like we're doing the right thin, I can't say whether the government will listen to us but if there's a tiny chance, we have to keep banging away at this.”

Another Norwich XR member, Jenny Haycocks, had taken on a wellbeing role, making sure those protesting in the roads had enough food and water.

She said: “I think a lot of people are really responding so well.”

She said she enjoyed how the movement was so welcoming, and anyone could be involved.

“I think for a lot of people it's something they've been longing for,” she said.

XR, who are demanding a meeting with the government, says direct action is needed to force authorities to act urgently on climate change and wildlife declines and halt a “sixth mass extinction”.

TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham joined protesters at Oxford Circus, saying: “I believe the world's leaders are not acting urgently enough to avert a climate catastrophe.

“As long as it is peaceful and democratic then they can count on my support.”

Earlier he appeared in a video giving direct support to the Norwich XR group.

He said: “Extinction Rebellion Norwich I just want to say thank you very much, I don't know what you've been doing but I hope you've been enjoying yourselves, I hope you've been being peaceful. One thing I've got to tell you is you've achieved an enormous success because everyone is talking about this demonstration.”

Earlier Dr Rupert Read, who has organised XR action in Norwich, appeared on Sky News to defend disruption to public transport.

Dr Read, a University of East Anglia philosopher and former Green Party city councillor, said: “So let me address the action with the tube this morning. Imagine that climate change does not get under control in the next 10 years, what we're going to be on the road to then is a world where there is catastrophic sea level rise, and that means that the whole tube network would be knocked out permanently.

“Now we think shutting down one tube line for a few hours is a small price to pay if it brings the right kind of attention to the seriousness of that issue which is imminent.”

Extinction Rebellion is calling on the UK government to fulfil three demands - to better inform the public about climate change, to make the country carbon neutral by 2025 and to create a citizens assembly model on environmental issues.

The international group has held protests in more than 80 cities across 33 countries since it formed last year.

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