UK police vow crackdown on Extinction Rebellion climate protests

Activist group plans major actions in October, as world marks hottest June - and likely July - on record.

    Extinction Rebellion activists gather around a boat opposite their camp on Waterloo Millennium Green, as they stage a week of climate protests in July in London [Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images]
    Extinction Rebellion activists gather around a boat opposite their camp on Waterloo Millennium Green, as they stage a week of climate protests in July in London [Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images]

    Climate activists with the United Kingdom-based group Extinction Rebellion will not be allowed to repeat the kind of disruption they caused in London earlier this year during planned demonstrations in October, police said on Thursday.

    Meanwhile, the impetus for such protests may be growing, as the planet just saw the hottest June ever recorded, and is on track for the warmest July as well.

    With a record-shattering heatwave in Europe - and unusually hot conditions elsewhere on the globe - last month saw the highest-ever average June temperature, according to data released this week by NASA. 

    The Copernicus Climate Change Service also reported the climate milestone of the hottest June on record for Europe - and the rest of the world. 

    The highest temperature from that weather event, 45.9 degrees Celsius (114.6 degrees Fahrenheit), was observed in Gallargues-le-Montueux, France.

    'Wholly unacceptable'

    Extinction Rebellion (XR) uses nonviolent civil disobedience to try to force governments to cut carbon emissions and avert a climate crisis that it says will bring social collapse. In Britain, it has sought to maintain momentum this week by holding a "summer uprising" of smaller-scale protests in London, Leeds, Glasgow, Cardiff and Bristol.

    The group has won the backing of scientists, researchers and academics who worry that the official response to the climate emergency and global heating is lagging far behind the severity of the problem.

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    Six activists were arrested on Tuesday after XR disrupted London Concrete, the British capital's biggest supplier of ready-mixed concrete.

    Before the summer, thousands of XR supporters occupied four sites in central London for 11 days in April, pushing climate change up the political agenda with one the largest civil disobedience campaigns seen in the UK in decades.

    Police said they had been forced to divert officers from tackling crime and policing neighbourhoods to deal with the protests - which included using a sailboat to block Oxford Circus, a major thoroughfare and shopping centre.

    "We thought that April [event] was wholly unacceptable," Laurence Taylor, deputy assistant commissioner of London's police, told reporters at the force's New Scotland Yard headquarters.

    "It went well beyond the realm of what was reasonable and we would not tolerate that level of disruption again."

    XR says it wants to cause even greater disruption in October than it did in April, when its protests involved stopping trains, defacing the offices of major oil company Shell, and demonstrating outside Goldman Sachs in London.

    Taylor also warned the group against any attempt to disrupt London's Heathrow Airport. XR has said it would attempt to force the airport to ground flights by flying drones at head height, in an exclusion zone outside the perimeter, to avoid posing any danger to aircraft.

    "We will absolutely not tolerate incursions into the airport, endangering the aircraft or disrupting the daily management of Heathrow," Taylor said.

    Taylor said the Metropolitan Police arrested more than 1,150 people during the April protests and around 180 have been charged so far.

    "We absolutely respect people's fundamental right to protest, but we do not accept that extends to causing misery and mass disruption to everybody," Taylor said.

    Impossible to ignore: Inside Extinction Rebellion

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies