Thousands of people are expected to take the streets of London on Monday, blocking traffic and disrupting “business as usual” in the capital to demand action over the escalating ecological crisis.
Hundreds of protesters slept in tents in Hyde Park overnight and many more from around the UK are expected to join them at five makeshift camps across London for the protest, expected to last at least a week.
The demonstrations are part of a global campaign, organised by the British climate group Extinction Rebellion, which encompasses protests in 80 cities, across 33 countries, in the coming days.
The campaign cites the civil rights and suffragette movements as inspiration and is backed by senior scientists and academics, including the former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
In London, organisers say they expect thousands to take part in peaceful acts of civil disobedience, bringing widespread disruption to the capital.
“We don’t want to disrupt people, but our government’s failure over the last 30 years leaves us no choice,” an Extinction Rebellion spokesperson said.
“Governments prioritise the short-term interests of the economic elites so, to get their attention, we have to disrupt the economy.”
Eighty-five people were arrested in London in November when thousands of protesters, including families and pensioners, occupied five bridges.
The group is demanding immediate action over environmental destruction, after dire predictions that humans face an existential threat if climate change and the loss of biodiversity continues.
It is calling on the government to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025 and establish a citizens’ assembly to devise an emergency plan of action similar to that seen during the second world war.
At 11am on Monday, protesters in London aim to set up camps at Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge, Parliament Square and Piccadilly Circus. Roadblocks are planned to continue night and day at each site for at least a week, and potentially longer, in a protest reminiscent of the Occupy London camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral in 2011-12.
Participants are being forewarned they will be invited to take part in non-violent civil disobedience, and might be arrested. Organisers have circulated legal advice to anyone planning to attend, requested they refrain from using drugs and alcoho, and asked that they treat passersby and the environment with respect.
A Metropolitan police spokesperson declined to comment, other than to say an appropriate policing plan would be in place.