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article imageClimate protests hit London's bustling financial hub

By Dmitry ZAKS (AFP)     Apr 25, 2019 in Environment

Environmentalists glued themselves to the London Stock Exchange entrance and staged impromptu concerts in the middle of traffic on the final day of a campaign that brought parts of the UK capital to a standstill.

Activists from Extinction Rebellion -- a fast-growing movement founded last year by British academics -- have used 11 days of festive but highly disruptive rallies to focus global attention on climate change.

Their ultimate goal is to slash greenhouse gas emissions to a net level of zero by 2025 and bring biodiversity loss to a halt.

The activists  who want to halt diversity loss  once again caused substantial disruption as they blo...
The activists, who want to halt diversity loss, once again caused substantial disruption as they blocked traffic, as here in the City financial hub
Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS, AFP

But their immediate aim was to get UK politicians to look past hot-button issues such as Brexit and think of ways to save the planet from irreparable damage that younger generations think will hurt them the most.

Extinction Rebellion members said their campaign received a great deal of public attention but failed to get the government to budge.

"The traffic disruptions have really, really brought the whole climate and environment out from being a niche issue," guitarist Nick Onley said while leading a group of 20 through a Beatles song performance in the middle of a busy London intersection.

"People don't like our methods but do like our message " insisted one activist even i...
"People don't like our methods but do like our message," insisted one activist even if residents found their daily activities disrupted with traffic blocked on several of the capital's thoroughfares such as Threadneedle Street
Ben STANSALL, AFP

"But it hasn't been a complete success. We haven't got to that point where the government says yes, please talk to us," Onley said as drivers stuck in the heart of London's bustling financial district furiously honked their horns.

The protest outside the London Stock Exchange building that stand in the shadow of St. Paul's Cathedral saw several glue themselves to the pavement in front of one of the glass entrance turnstiles.

One person wearing a gas mask also chained himself to one of the sleek building's stone columns.

"Many of the most environmentally destructive companies in the world have their stock market listings at the London Stock Exchange (LSE)," the group said in a statement.

Some activists glued themselves to the pavement to block the entrance to the London Stock Exchange -...
Some activists glued themselves to the pavement to block the entrance to the London Stock Exchange -- an institution they derided as one which "literally trades in the devastation of our planet"
Ben STANSALL, AFP

"This institution literally trades in the devastation of our planet."

AFP reporters counted seven campaigners at the building's entrance. Police eventually separated them and trading opened as usual.

- 'Not here to be liked' -

Activists had earlier targeted high-profile -- and tourist-heavy -- locations such as the Oxford and Piccadilly Circus intersections.

Some activists locked their hands together as police tried to move them on while drivers frustrated ...
Some activists locked their hands together as police tried to move them on while drivers frustrated at the disruption furiously honked their horns
Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS, AFP

They also camped out on a statue-filled square facing the grand parliament building and potted plants and flowers on a central bridge.

Their tactics of sitting down in the middle of busy roads and refusing -- peacefully -- to move have proved remarkably effective at generating media headlines.

But some activists admitted that Londoners often seemed befuddled about why the group thinks such tactics will help stop climate change.

"Some people don't like our methods but do like our message," retiree Trudy Warner said.

"What we say is: We're not here to be liked. We're here to get attention."

The entire campaign saw police make 1,130 arrests and press charges against 69 people.

Retired engineer Godfrey Whitehouse said he spent three nights in a police station holding cell.

Police had to remove one elderly climate change activist from the roof of a train at Canary Wharf st...
Police had to remove one elderly climate change activist from the roof of a train at Canary Wharf station during the protest by the Extinction Rebellion group
Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS, AFP

"I am just an ordinary member of the public who is absolutely terrified of the climate," Whitehouse said.

"And we would like to apologise to the public for the disruptions," he added softly.

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