With police accused of surrendering London’s streets to hundreds of eco-warriors, you might have expected officers to have got tougher on the activists.
But this rave filmed last night suggests quite the opposite, with two officers seen dancing with the Extinction Rebellion demonstrators at Oxford Circus in London.
One officer pumped his hand in the air as the other pulled off some ‘dad dancing’ moves and the protesters chanted ‘we love you, we love you, we love you’.
Police dance with Extinction Rebellion demonstrators at Oxford Circus in London last night
A post from Twitter user WatersideCafeWildlifeGarden at 11.50pm last night said: ‘Police solidarity with Extinction Rebellion at Oxford Circus! Brilliant!’
It follows politicians criticising Scotland Yard after the activists managed to block a string of key thoroughfares in the city for the third day in a row.
Only late yesterday did police appear to mobilise in numbers in order to clear the blockades. At least 340 people have been arrested since Monday over the protests.
The protests have affected 500,000 people and cost businesses an estimated £12million, but London mayor Sadiq Khan praised the activists for their ‘cooperation’.
Since Monday, Waterloo Bridge has been shut to traffic, with protesters planting trees, setting up vegan food stalls and chaining themselves to a truck.
In Oxford Circus protesters took over the streets, parking a bright pink boat on the main intersection. The protests have enraged commuters and business owners.
Last night, Chief Superintendent Colin Wingrove, in charge of the policing operation, insisted officers were doing ‘everything in their power’ to contain the protest.
He added: ‘The Met 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.’
At around 8pm it finally appeared that officers were trying to clear the key sites.
But critics said they had treated the mostly peaceful protesters with a light touch and demanded action to take back the streets.
Tory MP Sir Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Sir Winston Churchill, said: ‘Not absolutely convinced that our excellent Metropolitan Police are at present maintaining The Queen’s Peace on the streets of London.
‘Absolutely unacceptable that our great city is being held to ransom.’
Last night, Mr Gove said those trying to raise awareness about climate change were ‘moved by high ideas’, but some of their actions had been ‘over the top’.
In remarkable scenes across London:
■ Activists mocked the law by returning to protest hours after being arrested;
■ Police custody cells were left full to bursting, amid claims that Scotland Yard had run out of space;
■ A protester attempted to disrupt train services by gluing himself to a carriage;
■ Others glued themselves to the garden fence at the home of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn;
■ Protesters carried out yoga classes on the car-free roads they had blockaded;
■ Business leaders warned profits had slumped by £12million due to the protests;
■ At least 55 bus routes were shut down and 500,000 commuters were affected;
■ Home Secretary Sajid Javid wrote to Met commissioner Cressida Dick to offer the force ‘whatever support it needs’.
Extinction Rebellion, the Left-wing campaign group behind the demonstrations, has said its protests will escalate over two weeks if its demands are not met.
It wants the Government to introduce a legally binding policy to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025.
Tory MP Philip Davies described the situation as ‘a complete outrage’, adding: ‘It is about time the authorities got a grip and took whatever action is needed to clear them out of the way.’
Yesterday, train services were also disrupted in the city’s financial district Canary Wharf as an activist glued himself to a Docklands Light Railway carriage, while two others stood on the roof and unfurled a banner.
There are fears that millions of pounds could be lost by businesses if the protests continue over the Easter bank holiday weekend. Taxi drivers said police had ‘failed in their duty’ to keep the roads open.
Commuters and tourists also complained their journeys had been hampered and that it was hypocritical for environmental campaigners to target public transport networks.
Many of the activists are grandparents, first-time protesters and middle-class workers who said they had flocked to the streets to highlight the ‘climate emergency’.
Dai Davies, who led the Met’s riot squad in West London in the early 90s, said: ‘The Met seems to have slightly been caught with their pants down.
‘They have been very tolerant and I would have been a lot less tolerant of those who cause criminal damage.’
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘The right to protest peacefully is a long-standing tradition and a vital foundation of our democracy.’