Extinction Rebellion plan bank holiday chaos with roadblocks and airport protest

Environmental protest group Extinction Rebellion has called on its supporters to disrupt roads and airports as part of a series of socially distanced climate protests over the bank holiday weekend. 

Activists, who previously brought large parts of central London to a standstill last year, are planning demonstrations across several major British cities.

It’s expected to include roadblocks, sit-ins and marches targeting the aviation sector, banks, the fossil fuel industry and petrol stations.

The group has also confirmed that five activists, including co-founder Roger Hallam, have been arrested and detained ahead of the planned demonstrations.

They’ve been charged with conspiracy to cause criminal damage and have been remanded in custody until another court appearance on September 22.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, protestors are being encouraged to take action locally and ’regional rebellions’ are planned for London, Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff and Leeds from Friday. 

It marks a return to the limelight for the group, known for their confrontational tactics, after several planned demonstrations had to be cancelled because of the pandemic. 

The group’s activists were dragged off the top of a tube train by angry commuters last year and blockaded roads with a boat at Oxford Circus for several days in April 2019.

Clare Farrell, a co-founder of the XR movement, said the Covid-19 crisis ‘has shown us that things can change very, very rapidly when people realise that there is an existential threat to human life and if we took climate change as seriously as this pandemic then we are surely capable of making massive changes very, very rapidly.’

Organisers say they will be doing all they can to ensure protestors follow social distancing guidelines. 

The first protests coincide with the Government introducing hefty £10,000 fines for anyone organising gatherings that breach social distancing rules.

Paul Stephens, a former police officer who now supports XR, told reporters their group had received a letter from the police outlining the restrictions and potential for fines ‘unless you are one of the exceptions.’

‘The exceptions they list are businesses and charities and they didn’t mention protests, of course in the actual regulations protests are in there,’ he said, adding the ‘empty letter’ was a ‘vague threat’ and that XR would be challenging it at a meeting with police.

A few thousand people are expected to attend the London events, which include a series of converging marches starting from Tate Britain, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Cathedral and Smithfield Market.

Other protests will include a roadblock on Prince Street Bridge in Bristol, a mass bike ride from Brighton to London, banner drops and rallies against the expansion of Luton Airport and the aviation industry at Gatwick Airport.

The most significant demonstrations are being planned for London, Manchester and Cardiff on September 1.

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