Climate activists block roads, march in global protests
Activists with the Extinction Rebellion movement blocked roads and staged demonstrations in big cities around the globe Monday, part of a wide-ranging series of protests demanding much more urgent action against climate change.
Demonstrators stopped traffic in European cities, including Berlin, London, Paris and Amsterdam. In New York, activists smeared themselves – and emblems of Wall Street – in fake blood and lay in the street.
In some cities, activists chained themselves to vehicles or pitched tent camps and vowed not to budge.
“You might come from a variety of different groups, but we all stand against a system that’s destroying the planet and mankind, and we’re looking to change that because we can’t just have little changes, we want a real big change,” said Pierrick Jalby, a 28-year-old nurse from eastern France who joined the demonstration in Paris. “We don’t want reforms, in fact, we want a revolution.”
Members of Extinction Rebellion, a loose-knit movement also known as XR that started last year in Britain, have staged a series of flashy protests this year to demand action on man-made climate change, often featuring marchers in white masks and red costumes and copious amounts of fake blood.
In Berlin on Monday, around 1,000 people blocked the Grosser Stern, a traffic circle in the middle of the German capital’s Tiergarten park dominated by the landmark Victory Column. That protest began before dawn. Another 300 people blocked Berlin’s central Potsdamer Platz, placing couches, tables, chairs and flowerpots on the road.
Over the weekend, demonstrators had set up a tent camp outside German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office to prepare for the protests, reflecting dissatisfaction with a climate policy package drawn up last month by her government.
Merkel’s chief of staff, Helge Braun, criticised the group’s tactics.
“We all share an interest in climate protection, and the Paris climate targets are our standard in this,” he told ZDF television. “If you demonstrate against or for that, that is OK. But if you announce dangerous interventions in road traffic or things like this, of course that is just not on.”
He dismissed the idea of declaring a “climate emergency,” saying that the German constitution doesn’t provide for such a thing and it wouldn’t translate into “concrete action”.
Around 1,000 protesters blocked the area around Chatelet in central Paris and vowed to stay at least the night in the makeshift camp they had pitched. Some were seated, some chained to a barrel.
Demonstrators playing steel drums marched through central London as they kicked off two weeks of activities designed to disrupt the city.
London police said some 135 climate activists had been arrested. Extinction Rebellion said protesters were arrested as they blocked Victoria Embankment, outside the Ministry of Defence.
Among those arrested was 81-year-old Sarah Lasenby, a retired social worker from Oxford.
“It is imperative the government should take serious actions and put pressure on other states and global powers to radically reduce the use of fossil fuels,” she said.
In New York City, protesters doused a famous statue of a charging bull near Wall Street with fake blood. One protester waving a green flag climbed on top of the bull. Other activists splashed with red dye staged a ‘die-in’ in front of the New York Stock Exchange — lying down as if dead while tourists gawked.
Afterwards, a few participants were seen mopping the fake blood off the ground.
“The blood of the world is here,” said Justin Becker, an organiser who made a link between the fossil fuel industry and the financial interests of Wall Street. “A lot of blood has been spilled by the decisions of the powerful and the status quo and the toxic system that we live in.”