Dozens of police officers marched into Oxford Circus today while Dame Emma Thompson stood on top of a pink boat reading a ‘love poem to the earth’ on the fifth day of the Extinction Rebellion protests in London.
Huge crowds gathered as the Hollywood actress, who jetted into London Heathrow from Los Angeles on Wednesday, laughed with demonstrators as youth members of the group held a so-called ‘Day of Love’.
After telling how she ‘can’t even describe the level of hypocrisy from our government’, Dame Emma ascended the ladder to the deck of the boat to cheers from the crowd, before dozens of police officers surrounded them.
The boat was encircled by a ring of steel formed by at least 30 officers, which came hours after police told of the ‘strain’ the protests were putting on them with officers working 12-hour shifts and having rest days cancelled.
Once Dame Emma had got back on the ground and left, specialist officers began cutting protesters from the frame of the boat – which has become a focal point for the demonstrations – and leading them away.
Once Dame Emma had got off the pink boat at Oxford Circus today, specialist officers began cutting protesters from its frame
Dame Emma talks to members of the media from on top of the pink boat after police officers surrounded it today
Specialist officers are wearing harnesses and carrying boxes of equipment and protective visors at Oxford Circus today
Dame Emma speaks to protesters this morning from the pink boat that has blocked traffic from Oxford Circus for five days
Dozens of officers strode into the crowd of activists today and started to surround the pink boat which Dame Emma was in
Dame Emma stands on the boat as she speaks to climate change activists occupying the road junction at Oxford Circus today
Dame Emma told reporters at Oxford Circus this morning that she had come to support the movement and had been greatly inspired by it, adding that her generation and politicians had failed young people.
The 60-year-old Love Actually star, who posed with a £91.50 Vera Pelle leather backpack, said: ‘We have seriously failed them and our planet is in serious trouble, we have much, much less time than we thought.
‘I have seen the evidence for myself and I really care about my children and grandchildren enough to want to be here today to stand with the next generation.’
One officer told bystanders that there was an ordinance to clear the area, with dozens of officers stationed beyond the group by a number of police vans parked in Regent Street.
When asked if she was willing to be arrested, Dame Emma – who admitted she had been ‘banging on about it for years’ in reference to climate change – shrugged and said something off mic that could not be heard properly.
The actress said: ‘This is the most pressing and urgent problem of our time, in the history of the human race.’
And when asked whether protesters were having too much fun, Dame Emma said protests should have a sense of joy. She added: ‘If you can’t have fun whilst saving the planet, what’s the point?
‘Protest should always have a sense of joy in it because what we are protesting about is saving this extraordinary home of ours and also celebrating the passion and inspiring energy of this young generation.
Police officers arrive at Oxford Circus as they prepare to remove protesters during the fifth day of the protest today
A climate change activist reacts during an Extinction Rebellion protest at Oxford Circus in London today
Police officers carry away a climate change activist who was occupying the road junction at Oxford Circus in London today
Police carry away a demonstrator who was part of the environmental protest by Extinction Rebellion at Oxford Circus today
Climate change activists are seen gathering at Oxford Circus, surrounded by police during the protest this afternoon
Police officers escort a climate change activist who was occupying the road junction at Oxford Circus in London today
Climate change activists chant as they occupy the road junction at Oxford Circus in London today
Police officers surround the pink boat at Oxford Circus as they prepare to remove protesters this afternoon
‘These are young people who have finally said to my generation ‘I’m so sorry but you have failed us’. We all feel dreadful about that. My feeling is I feel massively inspired by this young generation and want to stand next to them.’
She added: ‘We are here in this little island of sanity and it makes me so happy to be able to join you all and to add my voice to the young people here who have inspired a whole new movement.’
Dame Emma, who has been urging more people to join the climate change movement, is expected to be joined by actors Lee Ross, from White Gold and The Catherine Tate Show, and Paapa Essiedu, from Press and Kiri.
Protest organisers said there would be a procession of youth members of Extinction Rebellion marching from the Eros Statue at Piccadilly Circus to Oxford Circus today, on what is the fifth day of the demonstrations this week.
Dame Emma, whose flight from Los Angeles to London this week generated at least 1.67 tonnes of CO2, said she had wanted to join the protests sooner but it had been her 60th birthday on Monday.
Police pushed bystanders from the blockade as dozens of officers moved in. Dame Emma left the protest but told activists she was sorry she had to go. She said it was the police’s decision to expend manpower at a non-violent protest.
She added: ‘If they choose to close down a non-violent protest by using their police… that’s their decision. If that causes difficulties then that’s their problem and their decision.’
Actress Emma Thompson (left) joins Extinction Rebellion demonstrators at Oxford Circus in London this morning
Dame Emma laughs with demonstrators at Oxford Circus as youth members of the group hold a so-called ‘Day of Love’ today
Dame Emma points to a ‘There is No Planet B’ label on a £91.50 Vera Pelle leather backpack as she appears in London today
Police surrounded the boat in two circles later on as one officer told bystanders that there was an ordinance to clear the area
Dame Emma joins the Extinction Rebellion protest at Oxford Circus as she speaks from on board the pink boat today
Dame Emma speaks from the deck of the pink boat today as the Extinction Rebellion demonstration in Oxford Circus
Dame Emma ascended the ladder to the deck of the pink boat parked at Oxford Circus today to cheers from the crowd
Dame Emma said at Oxford Circus today that she had come to support the movement and had been greatly inspired by it
Dame Emma is interviewed for television as she stands among demonstrators at Oxford Circus in London this morning
Police then began carrying and leading activists away from the protest in Oxford Circus. One woman was carried out the cordons by four officers and a man led away by two more. Specialist officers entered the ring of police.
Officers wearing hi-vis jackets with protester removal team written on them were within the cordon. There were also officers wearing harnesses and carrying boxes of equipment and protective visors.
Officers grabbed people trying to break through the police ring and pushed them back.
Yesterday, dressed in black dungarees and wearing a green sticker bearing the Extinction Rebellion logo on her chest, she said at Marble Arch: ‘I was not here on April 15 because I was with my husband because I was 60.’
The Oscar and Bafta-winning actress added: ‘I am so proud and thrilled to be part of Extinction Rebellion, a new movement that has come up behind all the old ones that I’ve been part of since I was 16 years old.
Dame Emma told the protesters at Oxford Circus in London this morning: ‘We are here in this little island of sanity’
Dame Emma said her generation and politicians had failed young people as she encouraged the protesters in London today
Dame Emma said today: ‘This is the most pressing and urgent problem of our time, in the history of the human race’
Dame Emma speaks from the boat today before she climbed down and started talking to the activists glued to its frame
When asked whether protesters were having too much fun, Dame Emma said today that protesters should have a sense of joy
Dame Emma hugs a man at Oxford Circus as she joins Extinction Rebellion demonstrators for the protest in London today
‘A movement that’s telling it like it is and saying to government ‘look, there’s no more time. You can’t lie and you can’t stall any longer’. And we will occupy until you take action because that is the only way we are going to save our planet.
‘It’s hard, it’s inconvenient sometimes but it’s much more inconvenient to leave a planet that’s so completely destroyed that our grandchildren will be up against things that we cannot even imagine.’
Her spokesman said: ‘She had to fly home at any rate, it was just earlier than she thought she could have. At the moment, that is our only available and practical means of trans-global travel.’
Earlier, this morning a group of activists, most of them under 17, had staged a brief demonstration on roads near Heathrow Airport.
Standing close to a tunnel which leads to terminals two and three, they unfurled a black banner with the message: ‘Are we the last generation?’
A young girl takes a selfie with Dame Emma during the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations at Oxford Circus today
Dame Emma said in London today: ‘I feel massively inspired by this young generation and want to stand next to them’
Dame Emma joins the Extinction Rebellion demonstrators at Oxford Circus today, after jetting into London on Wednesday
Dame Emma said today that the protest is partly about ‘celebrating the passion and inspiring energy of this young generation’
Dame Emma spoke after more than 570 protesters were arrested as activists continue to ignore orders to leave roadblocks
Several police officers watched over group before an XR spokesman announced before midday there were no further plans to cause disruption at the airport.
All roads remained open during the demonstration, which is part of a two-week campaign that began in central London on Monday. Heathrow previously said it was ‘working with authorities’ to remain business as usual.
Waterloo Bridge has now been blocked by demonstrators for five days despite the Metropolitan Police making more than 570 arrests.
Ten people had been charged by the force by Thursday night and three others arrested by British Transport Police were remanded in custody after they appeared in court accused of obstructing trains at Canary Wharf.
The Met said: ‘The protesters are using tactics of lying on the ground when approached. This means that it takes at least four officers to remove one person to ensure their safety which is resource intensive.’
An Extinction Rebellion demonstrator is taken away by police on Waterloo Bridge in London today as protests continue
A demonstrator is carried away by police on Waterloo Bridge today (left) where a woman stood with a bicycle (right)
An Extinction Rebellion demonstrator is walked away by police on Waterloo Bridge in London this afternoon
An Extinction Rebellion demonstrator is carried away from the road by police on Waterloo Bridge in London today
Police speak to an Extinction Rebellion demonstrator on Waterloo Bridge in London today as the protests continue
Extinction Rebellion demonstrators sit in the sunshine on Waterloo Bridge in London this afternoon
Extinction Rebellion demonstrators practise yoga on Waterloo Bridge in London today on the fifth day of the protests
Extinction Rebellion demonstrators hold a community meeting on Waterloo Bridge in London this afternoon
Extinction Rebellion demonstrators sit on a lorry on Waterloo Bridge today as police are urged to use the ‘full force of the law’
Routes are also blocked around Parliament Square and Marble Arch, and Home Secretary Sajid Javid has urged police to use the ‘full force of the law’.
‘I totally condemn any protesters who are stepping outside the boundaries of the law,’ Mr Javid said. ‘They have no right to cause misery for the millions of people who are trying to lead their daily lives.’
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, told BBC Breakfast the protests were ‘very, very difficult’ to handle and could cost ‘millions’.
He said: ‘The sufferers will be the communities in the local boroughs where officers are being taken from the community areas and the funding and money has to be found to deal with what we are doing.’
XR has pledged to continue causing disruption until its demands are met. They want the Government to declare a climate emergency and take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
Skateboarding, dancing, snoozing… another hard day on police’s front line as Home Secretary warns of using ‘full force of the law’ against eco activists
Scotland Yard chiefs were in the dock last night after failing to explain how they will clear the streets of eco-warriors involved in crippling protests across the capital.
As they faced mounting criticism over their softly-softly tactics, they issued a rambling 880-word statement insisting they have a ‘robust policing plan’.
But they gave no guarantees the protests will be brought to a halt any time soon – meaning widespread disruption to commuters could last until after the Easter break.
The row came as footage emerged of police officers dancing and skateboarding in the street with protesters – and one officer apparently napping in a police car.
And in an extraordinary admission, the Met said it had ‘no legal basis’ to physically and forcibly stop the protesters from moving around London.
‘These are peaceful protesters. While disruptive, their actions are not violent towards police, themselves or members of the public,’ it added.
The lack of any firm action from the authorities seemed to give the protesters fresh impetus.
Organisers said they expected more to join the protests, issuing a statement – which was later deleted – saying: ‘Easter weekend is tomorrow and thousands more rebels will join.
Police struggle to arrest 350 and there are ten times that number prepared to be arrested. The hollowed-out British State is overwhelmed.’
As the row over police tactics intensified, the Met revealed only eight protesters have been charged out of more than 460 arrested.
It added it had called in back-up officers from other forces and cancelled leave.
Last night Sajid Javid and Sadiq Khan were at loggerheads over the force’s controversial methods.
The Home Secretary said he expected the police to ‘use the full force of the law’ against activists who act illegally, saying everyone had the right to peaceful protest but ‘I totally condemn any protesters who are stepping outside the boundaries of the law’.
Take a day off and join in fun, urges leader
Dr Gail Bradbrook told Radio 4 the protests are ‘awesome’
One of the eco-warrior protest leaders was given an ear-bashing on the radio after calling for people to take the day off work and join their ‘fun’.
Extinction Rebellion’s co-founder Gail Bradbrook, 46, called her protests ‘awesome’, telling the Today programme: ‘We’re making history at the minute, people are having a fantastic time on the streets and we really welcome people to come join us.’
But a less-than-impressed Nick Robinson responded: ‘They don’t frankly have the privilege that you do, in order to choose when you can go to work. And they may not appreciate being told they should have fun doing it.’
The climate protester replied: ‘I think it’s really important that people have fun while they’re rebelling actually. What we’re asking is for people to come and join us if they can and people are taking time.’
Today host Nick Robinson was less than impressed yesterday
Dr Bradbrook, 46, is at the heart of an eco-movement based out of a quiet corner of the Cotswolds but now paralysing the capital. Stroud is perhaps most famous as the birthplace of Cider With Rosie author Laurie Lee.
But in contrast to the bucolic childhood the writer describes after his family moved to the nearby village of Slad, Stroud now finds itself at the heart of the climate change protest.
Dr Bradbrook settled in the Gloucestershire market town more than a decade ago because she thought it would be a safer place to bring up her two children.
The scientist first grabbed headlines in local protests against fracking and the construction of an incinerator at Javelin Park near Gloucester, including one where she stripped to her pants outside a council headquarters.
Extinction Rebellion was only set up last year and already claims to have a presence in some 100 towns across the UK, including in Stroud, as well as in 35 different countries. ‘Gail is the godmother of this movement,’ the group’s spokesman George Barda once said.
Dr Bradbrook’s partner and fellow co-founder of the movement Simon Bramwell, 46, was taken away in a police van after supergluing himself to the Shell HQ on Monday. Several other of Extinction Rebellion’s Stroud members have also been involved in high profile moments this week.
Four Labour activists Skeena Rathor, 42, a Labour councillor, Richard House, 64, Tracee Williams, 55, and David Lambert, 60, travelled from Stroud and chained themselves to Jeremy Corbyn’s garden wall on Wednesday.
But London Mayor Mr Khan – who on Wednesday praised the eco-warrior group for its ‘co-operation’ – tried to make political capital out of the handling by police, suggesting in a letter to Mr Javid that the Met’s ability to enforce the law had been made ‘significantly harder’ by ‘the huge cuts to Government police funding’.
Government sources accused Mr Khan of ‘deflection tactics’.
Last night London Assembly Member Andrew Boff called for an inquiry into how Mr Khan and Scotland Yard had responded to the protests.
He said: ‘Questions have to be asked about whether the Mayor has tacitly encouraged Extinction Rebellion to bring our city to a grinding halt, having admitted he ‘shares passion’ with the group.
‘Sadiq Khan and senior Met Police officers owe Londoners an explanation; how have they failed to bring an end to this chaos and how long will it continue?’
In its statement last night, the Met said it had more than 1,000 officers on the streets policing the demonstrations, which have seen activists blockade four major routes through London.
‘This is putting a strain on the Met and we have now asked officers on the boroughs to work 12-hour shifts; we have cancelled rest days and our Violent Crime Task Force (VCTF) have had their leave cancelled,’ it said.
It added it has a ‘duty to balance the rights of those engaged in protest and who are acting within the law, against the needs and rights of Londoners to go about their daily lives with minimum disruption’.
Police at Oxford Circus – where a pink boat appears to have been bolted to the ground – yesterday persisted with a tactic of sporadically selecting a protester to arrest before carrying them from the crowd to whoops and cheers from activists.
Each arrest took at least four officers, as every protester would ‘play dead’ and had to be carried away.
Among those led away by police was a 77-year-old Anglican vicar.
Reverend Sue Parfitt, from Bristol, locked herself under a lorry which was used to block the road at the protest at Marble Arch on Monday.
A friend described her as ‘an inspiration’, adding: ‘She was prepared to get arrested if it came to it.’
A senior Police Federation official said on Wednesday that officers had not cleared the protests because the Government and senior officers had not given clear instructions to do so.
Hours later, images emerged of his colleagues enjoying an overnight rave with eco-warriors, smiling in hi-vis jackets as they danced to music blaring from the pink boat.
The officers looked appreciative of the protesters’ chants of ‘we love you’. One officer can be seen applauding as the crowd cheered.
But a police chief yesterday described their antics as ‘unacceptable’ after the footage appeared on Twitter.
A police officer is pictured sleeping in his car on Wednesday night during the Extinction Rebellion protest at Marble Arch
Scotland Yard said inquiries were being made to identify the officers involved. Met Commander Jane Connors said: ‘I’m disappointed by the video and the unacceptable behaviour of the officers in it.
‘We expect our officers to engage with protesters but clearly their actions fall short of the tone of the policing operation at a time when people are frustrated at the actions of the protesters.
‘We will be reminding officers of their responsibilities and expectations in policing this operation – however the majority of officers have been working long hours and I am grateful to them for their continued commitment.’
Her condemnation came as footage also emerged of an officer apparently asleep in his car, while another was seen skateboarding in daylight on Waterloo Bridge along a section of road where ‘climate justice now’ was sprayed in pink letters.