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Extinction Rebellion protesters stop rush-hour traffic in London | Environment

Category: Political Protests,Politics

Environmental protesters stopped traffic on three main roads into central London from the south-east on Friday morning in protest over the “air pollution crisis” in the area.

The protesters, organised by a local chapter of the Extinction Rebellion group, blocked traffic on the A20 near Lewisham station, A205 South Circular in Catford and the A2 in Deptford during the morning rush hour.

XR said the action was intended as the first in a series of disruptions in the area as part of a campaign called Let Lewisham Breathe. Protesters handed out leaflets and cake to apologise for the disruption caused on a main route into London’s centre.

Extinction Rebellion protesters in Lewisham.
Extinction Rebellion protesters in Lewisham. Photograph: Lorna Greenwood/Extinction Rebellion

Lorna Greenwood, who took part in the protest despite being nine months pregnant, said she and about 50 fellow activists – all from the local area – began their action at 7.30am.

“The idea was to stop traffic temporarily to put pressure on all of our politicians – Lewisham council, Sadiq Khan and the government – to confront the air pollution crisis,” she said. “There was some backlash but really not as much as you would expect because people in the area know how bad the problem is.”

Levels of pollution in New Cross and Deptford are up to six times higher than World Health Organization guidelines, according to a recent study by researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London. Last year Khan, the mayor of London, called air pollution in Lewisham a “health crisis”.

Greenwood said: “Lewisham suffers really badly with air pollution so it’s at the forefront of everybody’s minds and it’s something that really unites people. It doesn’t matter what job you do or how old you are, people have to breathe the same air.”

Around 50 protesters took part in the action, which began at 7.30am.
Around 50 protesters took part in the action, which began at 7.30am. Photograph: Lorna Greenwood/Extinction Rebellion

At least one commuter was “very annoyed” by the disruption to her journey. Holly, 34, was stuck in a traffic jam outside Lewisham station after travelling in from Bexley, south-east London, for her childcare. She still had several miles to drive before she reached her final destination of Bromley.

She told the Press Association: “It’s backed up and I’ve been sat in it for more than half an hour. I’m definitely going to be late for work now.”

Graham, a resident of Lewisham who works in the public sector, said he supported the protest. He blamed queues and high numbers of traffic lights for pollution in the area.

“The traffic just idles here. There’s an air pollution cloud. You walk around and it’s disgusting,” he said. “They are slowly killing the people who live here by creating car parks in the city. If people could see the pollution they would do something about it. It’s killing people but nobody seems to care.”

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