London, United Kingdom – Climate change activists turned up in their hundreds for the official closing day of their “autumn rebellion” in London.
Marching from the north bank of the Thames through Westminster on Friday, members of Extinction Rebellion held red-painted hands up high to symbolise, they say, taking responsibility for their actions.
Since protests began on October 7, there have been more than 1,700 protest-related arrests, mostly for breaching conditions imposed by police under public order laws.
With the exception of an incident in the London Tube in which activists were dragged off a train by passengers, the demonstrations have been largely peaceful.
On Monday, after seven days of protest that brought some areas of central London to a standstill by targeting government departments, financial and other institutions, police banned the group from protesting in the city altogether.
Rallies have continued regardless, with celebrities and public figures in the UK endorsing the movement – including fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood, actress Emma Thompson and the band Radiohead.
Guardian columnist George Monbiot and Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley were among those arrested earlier this week.
On Friday, activists marched through the streets of Westminster, where many government departments are based, marking their way to the British parliament with red washable chalk by printing silhouettes of their hands on roads and buildings. Some of those caught “red-handed” were immediately arrested.
“It’s asking [the government] what have they done, five months since Parliament declared a climate emergency,” Zoe Lafferty, a theatre director and playwright who was arrested during the last round of protests of this scale in April alongside more than 1,100 others.
The protests led to parliament declaring a climate emergency following a non-binding motion tabled by opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
“It’s not good enough just to do declarations. An emergency is what it says on the tin: an emergency,” said Lafferty.
Protesters delivered their demands to six government departments on their way to Parliament Square, while a “people’s speech” was drafted to criticise the amount of attention given to climate change in the “Queen’s Speech” earlier this week.
Pam Bellinger, an organic farmer from Leicester, was among the demonstrators at the Treasury department.
“We demand to see the treasury’s plans for responding to the planetary emergency, to see the risks to society in continuing with the current growth economic model,” she told Al Jazeera.
“We also ask to see the treasury’s assessment of the economic consequences of exceeding the Paris agreement temperature limit,” she explained.
The group wants the government to enact policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2025, and set up a Citizen’s Assembly on climate and ecological justice.
The UK government has set itself a target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. But the UK Committee on Climate Change warned last week that the country is on course to miss it.
Extinction Rebellion groups have mobilised around the world since the current round of protests began, from Berlin to Rome to Buenos Aires. The group says it has 480 active groups in 72 countries.
“I’ve been campaigning on environmental issues for about 30 years, but since Extinction Rebellion started we’ve had a lot of success over the last 12 months, including the government declaring a climate emergency,” said Rod Thick, a 73-year-old who is part of a growing grandparents group within the movement.
“The next step is to make sure they’re on it. We’ve got 18 months to put things right.”