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Climate Protesters Take to Streets of Cities Worldwide


LONDON — The climate group Extinction Rebellion blocked all major roads around Britain’s Parliament on Monday in protests the organization said would last two weeks.

Hundreds of activists occupied Trafalgar Square, a major landmark, as well as Westminster Bridge, with drummers entertaining protesters as they set up tents.

Smaller protest sites were set up outside government departments, including the Ministry of Defense.

Although the protests were focused on London, activists took to the streets around the world, including blocking roadways in Australia and New Zealand.

In New York, 27 protesters were arrested as they staged a funeral march from Battery Park to Washington Square Park, according to the Police Department. Protesters could be seen on Facebook Live standing in a road covered in fake blood.

In Germany, hundreds of people responded to the activists’ call to block the traffic circle around the Victory Column in Berlin early Monday, sealing off a key transit point between the formerly divided capital’s east and west districts. The Berlin police said the protests were peaceful, and traffic remained fluid as drivers diverted to alternate routes.

Later in the day, dozens of activists also blocked Potsdamer Platz, while activists set up a camp in a park facing the Reichstag to serve as their headquarters for a week of protests.

In the Netherlands, over 100 people were arrested, the BBC said, after they tried to set up a tent city on a main road outside the Rijksmuseum, one of the city’s main visitor attractions.

It is the second time Extinction Rebellion has shut down swathes of central London in six months. In April, the group installed a pink boat emblazoned with the words “Tell the Truth” in Oxford Circus, a major shopping area, and occupied several bridges, holding concerts and yoga classes on them.

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement published on its website that it had arrested 276 people by 6:15 p.m. on Monday. The statement did not give further details, such as an estimate of the numbers involved in the protest.

At first, it seemed that Monday’s protests in London — advertised on Extinction Rebellion’s website and discussed with the police — might be less successful than previous ones, because the authorities tried to clamp down on them in advance.

On Saturday, the Metropolitan Police raided a building in south London and confiscated portable toilets and other equipment intended for the sit-ins, making eight arrests. At 8 a.m. on Monday, dozens of police officers stood on the two bridges around Parliament and were seen conducting searches of people thought to be activists, and warning them not to congregate.

“I’m on my own, waiting for a protest to happen,” said Dave Buchan, 37, who was on Lambeth Bridge looking for other Extinction Rebellion members.

Mr. Buchan had traveled five hours from Hull, in northeast England, to be at the protest because, he said, humanity “won’t last very long if it keeps on going on as we are.”

Around 9:30 a.m., hundreds of protesters emerged from coffee shops to occupy the sites, said Juliet Bottle, 27, a doctor and spokeswoman for the group. They had received a signal to start the occupation via the secure messaging app Telegram, she said.

“We intend to be here for two weeks,” Ms. Bottle said.

Other actions planned during the next two weeks include an occupation of London City Airport, a favorite of business travelers.

The police let protesters occupy the roads, Ms. Bottle said, but impounded anything they thought could be used to form a camp. “They’ve surrounded a set of kitchen sinks,” she said, pointing to them in the middle of Trafalgar Square, where several protesters were dancing on a scaffold they had erected.

XR, as Extinction Rebellion’s members call it, uses nonviolent mass disruption to increase awareness of climate change and force action on the issue, such as persuading governments to declare a climate emergency and to set targets for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.

The group — in a major departure from past environmental movements in Britain — urges its members to get arrested so they can also use the courts as a platform. It also calls for actions to focus on capital cities to maximize disruption, rather than more traditional sites of protest in Britain like power stations.

The organization was established only last year, with its initial actions — including an occupation of Greenpeace’s offices — attracting just a few dozen people. But it has boomed since.

In July, Policy Exchange, a think tank with close ties to the Conservative Party, issued a report calling the group “an extremist organization whose methods need to be confronted and challenged rather than supported and condoned.” But it admitted the group was having a “honeymoon” period with both the public and the government.

In April, several XR members met Michael Gove, who was then secretary of state for the environment, and in May, the Parliament declared a “climate emergency,” one of the group’s three demands.

Melissa Eddy contributed reporting from Berlin.


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