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Extinction Rebellion demonstrations get underway across the country after group promised bedlam

Multiple demonstrations are getting underway across the country this weekend as environmental campaign group Extinction Rebellion gears up for a new ‘uprising’.

Various stunts including a ‘funeral march’ in Lewes, East Sussex, and a fancy dress tea party at Gatwick Airport are scheduled.

Three women have also been arrested in Brighton following the protests after they scaled the West Beach cafe on the seafront.  

Extinction Rebellion says the activities over the August bank holiday weekend are a precursor to larger protests taking place from Tuesday. 

The group is targeting other UK airports in an attempt to avoid the aviation industry’s return to ‘business as usual’ which it says is one of the biggest contributors to the climate crisis.

Groups are already gathering near Stansted, Luton and Leeds Bradford airports in protest against planned expansions.

A march named ‘Procession for the Planet’ is underway in Lewes, featuring black-clad mourners and a jazz band ‘to mark the death and destruction wrought by humans on our natural world’.

Activists in Brighton are planning an ‘epic voyage of rebellion’ in which they will march from the seafront to London with a ‘Lightship’ named after climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Meanwhile in Leeds, a group of XR activists gathered in the city centre to demonstrate against the expansion of Leeds Bradford airport in a protest dubbed ‘Ride the Noise’.

Pictures show a handful of cyclists donning masks with the XR branding on as well as other demonstrators holding banners and signs.

In London parents have been invited to take their children for a ‘Feed and Play-in’ outside the Bank of England to protest against fossil fuel bailouts, and similar demonstrations are due to take place in Oxford, Cardiff, Leicester and York.

Extinction Rebellion was responsible for two weeks of protests last summer, which saw a shutdown of much of central London.

Protests this weekend are due to include roadblocks, marches, sit-ins, bike rides and picnics, with organisers emphasising their ethos of ‘non-violent direct action’.

A large ‘We All Want to Live’ march took place today in central Brighton, with protesters meeting at the Pavilion Gardens at midday.

The group also hung a large banner which reads ‘Our House is on Fire’ from the town’s pier – a popular spot for photographers.

In Brighton, specialist officers were called to escort down three protesters that had scaled the West Beach cafe on the seafront. 

The women have been arrested after the incident which was part of a wider demonstration, described by the group as an ‘epic voyage of rebellion’. 

Brighton and Hove police tweeted about it, saying the women had been arrested ‘on suspicion of aggravated trespassing’. 

Tomorrow, Extinction Rebellion activists from Brighton will begin a six-day effort to push a 20ft model lightship to London to join a ‘national rebellion’ in the capital.

The lightship, named Greta after teenage activist Greta Thunberg, is used by the campaigners to symbolise ‘sounding the alarm about the climate crisis’.  

 Meanwhile in Bristol, campaigners gathered to protest the expansion of the city’s international airport.

Ben Moss, a co-organiser and Chew Valley XR spokesperson, told the Bristol Post: ‘Airport expansion brings about the death of democracy – 77 per cent of all comments on the proposed expansion were objections, with 84 per cent from North Somerset against.

‘This was higher still in some villages. Councillors’ decision followed a democratic process. Nothing has changed, except there is even less demand post-Covid-19 and worsening markets of the climate crisis.

‘If the Secretary of State overturns this decision it is overturning the will of local people and, more than that, threatening our whole ecosystem and delicately balanced climate.’

In Somerset, demonstrators donned red outfits from head to toe and put on a theatrical performance outside Wells Cathedral as part of a ‘vigil for the Environment’ which everyone was invited to attend. 

The demonstrations will risk breaching social-distancing guidelines, although XR said it will be ‘pushing very hard’ for all participants to obey Government rules.

Yesterday, campaigners unfurled banners against oil and gas company Shell on Westminster Bridge in London, while some targeted Trinity College in Cambridge and spray-painted hand silhouettes on the college’s walls.

Others staged a protest against fossil fuels outside the Shell building in London.

Meanwhile, parliament’s online security body has warned Extinction Rebellion could try to target officials working for parliamentary committees to access social media accounts.

In an email entitled Cyber Security Threat This Weekend, Parliamentary Digital Service’s cyber security team warned them to update and strengthen passwords and check official accounts over the bank holiday weekend for any ‘suspicious activity’, the Guido Fawkes blog reported.

Extinction Rebellion, whose protests brought parts of London and other cities to a halt last year, has said it is restarting mass demonstrations this week having paused them earlier in the year due to the coronavirus. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on travel, protesters are encouraged to take action locally with the aviation sector, banks, the fossil fuel industry and petrol stations as targets.

The protests are being held ahead of larger-scale demonstrations planned for London, Manchester and Cardiff on September 1.

Protests this weekend are expected to include roadblocks, marches, sit-ins, bike rides and picnics, with campaigners emphasising their ethos of ‘non-violent direct action’.

Demonstrations planned include a march in solidarity for animal justice in Trafalgar Square and a silent visual protest staged by grandparents outside Buckingham Palace.

There is also a ‘civil disobedience’ disco planned taking place outside Buckingham Palace and an inter-faith protest near Parliament. 

XR supporters will also be encouraged to protest digitally, and urged to phone their MPs and ‘institutions of power’.

Anneka Sutcliffe, from XR Actions Circle, said a ‘few thousand’ people had indicated on Facebook they would join the London events, but numbers were expected to be lower than at demonstrations held in October.

Converging marches will start from Tate Britain, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Cathedral and Smithfield Market.

Other protests will include a roadblock on Prince Street Bridge in Bristol, a mass bike ride from Brighton to London, banner drops and rallies against the expansion of Luton Airport and the aviation industry at Gatwick Airport.

Avon and Somerset Police said the Clifton Suspension Bridge would close from midnight on Thursday because of the Bristol protest, and could be shut until 6am on Tuesday at the earliest. 

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