The bridges and shopping streets of London were clear of climate protesters this morning – but the group could bring more chaos to the capital from tomorrow.
The Extinction Rebellion group occupied bridges, jumped on trains and parked a boat in Oxford Circus last week, hitting businesses and commuters and leading to a hugely-expensive police operation.
With the protests set to enter their second week, the group’s leaders are now at odds over whether to continue to protest or turn their attention to political negotiation.
Officials fear that if the protests do continue, they could disrupt the London Marathon, which is planned for next Sunday.
Last night, the group moved back to Marble Arch, the only police-sanctioned protest space, where they are said to be discussing their next move.
Oxford Circus, where demonstrators placed a pink boat last week, was also clear this morning
Waterloo Bridge, which was occupied by protesters last week, was clear this morning
The group’s leaders remain at Marble Arch, the only police-sanctioned protest site, but are reportedly arguing over how to move forward
Farhana Yamin, from the group’s political committee, said: ‘Being able to ‘pause’ a rebellion shows that we are organised and a long-term political force to be reckoned with.’
But while admitting that no escalation was planned for Bank Holiday Monday, a spokesman for the group warned that the disruption would get ‘much worse’ if politicians were not open to their negotiation requests.
A total of 963 people had been arrested as of 7pm on Sunday while 40 have been charged in connection with the protests, the Met Police said.
Olympic gold medallist Etienne Stott was one of the activists arrested on Waterloo Bridge as police cleared the final section of carriageway on Sunday evening.
The London 2012 canoe slalom champion was carried from the bridge by four officers at around 8.30pm as he shouted of the ‘ecological crisis’.
The group will no longer hold a picnic on the Westway by Edgware Road Underground station, which would have stopped traffic on the busy A-road on the last day of the long Easter weekend.
The protesters, camped in Hyde Park, will hold a meeting today to decide their next move
Police have cleared Waterloo Bridge of climate demonstrators as the protests threaten to go into a second week
Instead, at Marble Arch, the only police-sanctioned protest space, activists will meet to ‘vision what’s going to happen in the coming week’, an Extinction Rebellion member said, as she introduced Swedish activist Greta Thunberg to the stage.
The 16-year-old was met with cheers as she walked on stage and told a crowd of hundreds that humanity was at a crossroads.
Earlier on Sunday, in what the group later said was an internal memo intended to garner feedback from members.
The proposal suggests negotiating with the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Metropolitan Police, to agree that they be allowed to continue their protests at one site in London.
A protester eats during an apparent ‘pause’ day in the climate demos which have hit London
The protesters camped on Waterloo bridge for the whole of last week but yesterday officers started clearing the road of their tents
Teen who sparked school climate strikes is cheered by eco mob
The teenage climate activist who inspired a series of classroom walkouts was cheered by protesters yesterday.
Greta Thunberg, 16, vowed to fight back against world leaders who she accused of standing idly by while an ‘ecological crisis’ unfolds.
The Swedish campaigner said: ‘For way too long the politicians and people in power have got away with not doing anything at all to fight the climate crisis and ecological crisis.
‘But we will make sure that they will not get away with it any longer.’
Addressing climate activists at Marble Arch, she said: ‘Humanity is now standing at a crossroads. We must now decide which path we want to take.
‘How do we want the future living conditions for all living species to be like?
Members would commit to not disrupting other areas in exchange for Mr Khan speeding up the implementation of the Declaration of Climate and Ecological Emergency, and considering setting up a London Citizens’ Assembly.
They will also set up a political taskforce to take forward public negotiations with the Government, warning that they are prepared to scale up action depending on how much progress is made.
Neither the Met nor the Mayor’s Office would say whether they were considering the proposals.
Boris Johnson, Mr Khan’s predecessor as mayor, wrote in the Daily Telegraph that he was ‘not in favour of paralysing public transport in the greatest city on earth’ and said the UK was a ‘world leader in reducing the greenhouse gases that are associated with climate change’.
He wrote: ‘I am not saying for one second that the climate change activists are wrong in their concerns for the planet – and of course there is much more that can be done.
‘But the UK is by no means the prime culprit, and may I respectfully suggest to the Extinction Rebellion crew that next Earth Day they look at China, where CO2 output has not been falling, but rising vertiginously.
‘Surely this is the time for the protesters to take their pink boat to Tiananmen Square, and lecture them in the way they have been lecturing us.’