World / Social Issues

Climate protesters vow to halt London action if U.K. government discusses their demands

AFP-JIJI

Climate change protesters who have brought parts of London to a standstill said Sunday they were prepared to call a halt if the U.K. government would discuss their demands.

Some 831 arrests have been made and 42 people charged in connection with the ongoing Extinction Rebellion protests.

On the seventh day of the demonstrations, which have occupied key spots in the British capital, Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed the protesters, telling them: “Humanity is standing at a crossroads.”

Organizers said they were willing to switch tactics from disruption to dialogue — if the government entered talks.

“We are prepared to pause, should the government come to the negotiating table,” Extinction Rebellion spokesman James Fox told AFP.

“What the pause looks like is us stopping an escalation,” he added.

“We can discuss leaving if they are willing to discuss our demands. At the moment, we haven’t received a response from the government … so we’re waiting on that.”

Extinction Rebellion was established last year in the U.K. by academics, and has become one of the world’s fastest-growing environmental movements.

Campaigners want governments to declare a climate and ecological emergency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025, halt biodiversity loss and be led by new citizens’ assemblies on climate and ecological justice.

“We’re giving them an opportunity now to come and speak to us,” said Fox.

“If they don’t take that opportunity, and if they refuse to come and negotiate with us, then this is going to continue and this is going to escalate in different, diverse and very creative ways.”

Thunberg, the 16-year-old activist who has inspired pupils worldwide to boycott classes to join climate protests, addressed cheering crowds at the Marble Arch landmark — the only authorized demonstration site.

“For way too long the politicians and people in power have got away with not doing anything at all to fight the climate crisis and ecological crisis,” she said.

“But we will make sure that they will not get away with it any longer. How do we want the future living conditions for all living species to be like?

“Humanity is now standing at a crossroads,” Thunberg said. “We must now decide which path we want to take. We are waiting for the others to follow our example.”

Police said they had managed to clear the protesters from Parliament Square, and the Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus junctions.

Those charged range in age from 19 to 77. They hail from around England and Wales, with one person from France charged.

The charges are for various offenses including breaching public order laws, obstructing a highway and obstructing police.

Calling for an end to the protests, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said more than 9,000 police officers had been responding to the demonstrations, which had left the force as a whole overstretched.

“This is now taking a real toll on our city — our communities, businesses and police. This is counter-productive to the cause and our city,” he said.

“I’m extremely concerned about the impact the protests are having on our ability to tackle issues like violent crime if they continue any longer. It simply isn’t right to put Londoners’ safety at risk.

“You must now let London return to business as usual.”

In blazing sunshine on Waterloo Bridge, police lifted protesters and carried them off to waiting police vans.

“I’m genuinely terrified. I think about it all the time. I’m so scared for the world. I feel like there is going to be calamity in my lifetime,” said student Amber Gray.

“I don’t even feel comfortable bringing children into this world knowing that that is coming. And I don’t want people in the future to say to me, ‘why didn’t you do anything?'”

Retiree Kathy Hayman said politicians were “ignoring and denying.

“I’m amazed really at the lack of consciousness that they have and the lack of responsibility.”