Environmental activists who blocked five bridges in London on Saturday plan to continue their campaign of civil disobedience on Wednesday with “rebellion swarming” protests aimed at bringing traffic in the capital to a standstill.
Protesters coordinated by Extinction Rebellion, a group calling for the UK to shift to a carbon-neutral economy by 2025, will gather in Parliament Square and four undisclosed locations before staging a series of roving sit-down protests to block busy intersections.
Other members of the group, which says it has hundreds of activists willing to be arrested, will deliver a letter to the government outlining their demands, which also include the establishment of a “citizens’ assembly” to consider solutions to environmental destruction.
Ronan McNern, an organiser, said the plan was to cause major disruption with a number of small teams of 20 or so activists moving around London. “It is going to be very different to Saturday. We don’t know what the reaction is going to be,” he said.
“The lights go red. They go into and sit down in the road, wait seven minutes. If anybody needs to get past, we’ll let them through. Come off after seven minutes, take a break, let the angry drivers at the front go, then the light goes red and you go on again.
“This is about causing economic disruption by slowing things down, bringing things to a gridlock. This is an experiment, really. I think that’s the most important word.”
He added: “So many amazing things have happened. Three weeks ago no one knew the name Extinction Rebellion, then there was the declaration [of rebellion], there was the week of action, there was 6,000 people [on the bridges through central London].
“This is a much more serious tactic – this is an experiment. The only way to affect the government is to hit things economically.”
On Saturday, 82 protesters were arrested after occupying Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo, Westminster and Lambeth bridges, in one of the biggest acts of peaceful civil disobedience seen in the UK in decades.
Some people locked themselves together and others linked arms and sang songs. Organisers said more would have been detained but for the police running out of vans to take them away.
In the previous two weeks, police made more than 60 arrests of activists for taking part in acts of civil disobedience, ranging from gluing themselves to government buildings to blocking roads. Many activists were arrested more than once.
“The other important thing is to remember that these are all people that are willing to be arrested,” McNern said. “So it’s very different from when you are dealing with people who are scared of being arrested.”
He said the group had been in touch with the police to inform them of their plans and they were willing to abandon any blockade that hampered the movement of emergency vehicles.
On top of their specific demands, organisers say they hope the campaign of “respectful disruption” will change the debate around climate breakdown and signal to those in power that the present course of action will lead to disaster.