Police outnumber protesters but disappear when more activists arrive

Bobbies OFF the beat! Police outnumber protesters with more than 50 officers in Oxford Circus only to disappear when more activists swarm area – as truck bolsters blockade at Waterloo Bridge

  • Police outnumbered and threatened to arrest climate change protesters at Oxford Circus in London today
  • However, despite the threats they later withdrew, allowing protester numbers to swell towards the afternoon 
  • The blockade of Waterloo Bridge also continued for sixth day today, with protesters adding a truck to the line

Climate change protesters at Oxford Circus in London were in a celebratory mood this morning after they defied police officers who threatened to arrest them.

Police said they would arrest any activists found camped out after 10.30am on a busy junction of the popular shopping district – but they withdrew from the scene just an hour later.

This allowed the small crowd of protesters, which numbered just 30 at the start of the day and was outnumbered by around 50 officers, to swell as it approached midday. 

Eventually, police officers returned to remove protesters, as fellow demonstrators cheered and chanted slogans at them.  

The blockade of Waterloo Bridge also continued today, with protesters adding a truck to their line.  

At the start of today’s Oxford Circus protest at 10.30am, there were more police officers than demonstrators as they threatened activists with arrests

However, an hour later police had dispersed, leaving just a few officers on the ground as the crowd of protesters swelled towards midday

As of 10am, more than 715 people have been arrested with 28 protesters charged following the six days of demonstrations.

Police tried to force protesters away from Oxford Circus and other locations in London, filtering them to Marble Arch. 

A statement from the force said: ‘We are trying our best to give the businesses a chance to return to ”business as usual”.’ 

Oxford Circus protesters were repeatedly threatened with arrest throughout the day, though discussions between officers and demonstrators saw police backtrack.

As the day went on, police stayed at the scene in vans, but there were few officers on the street.  

Spirits were high as the protesters sang and chanted while blocking the street, without any police officers seemingly in sight

They held banners proclaiming ‘we are the boat’ in reference to the pink boat that was removed by police officers after it had become a symbol of the protest

Close to 1pm, police officers descended on the protesters, arresting and removing them from the scene, carrying some of them

They hoisted some of the protesters into the air and carried them away, while other demonstrators cheered and chanted

Rebecca Johnson, who was at the scene as a legal observer, said: ‘I’m here as a legal observer. People have come here to stop traffic and to stop London and say ”wake up we have to do something now to prevent climate destruction escalating”. 

‘We were facing nuclear war but here everyone has come together. This has got to be the right use of everybody’s time, we are sleepwalking into a climate catastrophe.

‘I cannot emphasise enough if we don’t act now it will be too late. We want to make sure protesters know what their right are.’ 

One father, who was at the protest with his wife and children, said: ‘I’d be happy to get arrested but it’s difficult with my kids here.’

Police officers took over the site of the protest at Oxford Circus today, moving and removing demonstrators after 1pm

They instead directed protesters who wished to continue demonstrating to go to Marble Arch or risk being arrested

Climate change activists sit atop a lorry as they continue to block Waterloo Bridge for a sixth consecutive day this morning

A climate change activist meditates as demonstrators continue to block Waterloo Bridge in London on the sixth day of an environmental protest by the Extinction Rebellion group

An Extinction Rebellion demonstrator wearing an owl mask on Waterloo Bridge during today’s protest from climate change activists

Another, named Rory, said: ‘I’ve been here since 9pm last night we were very thin on the ground because the boat got taken yesterday. There were only 15/20 people were here last night.

‘I’m going to carry on doing it till Monday but I’m working on Tuesday.’ 

Protester Katie said: ‘I’ve been coming everyday because I care about our future and I want to show the government that our collective voices can be powerful and do mean something. We made a collective decision to stay out here today when police said we would be arrested and look what happened, our voices are powerful’.

Police added: ‘One thing that is unusual about this demonstration is the willingness of those participating to be arrested and also their lack of resistance to the arrests.’

As of 10am, more than 715 people have been arrested with 28 protesters charged following the six days of demonstrations

Although the numbers were drastically lower than they were on previous days, dozens still turned out to protest at several sites in London

This week’s Extinction Rebellion (XR) demonstrations have closed key routes through the capital, cost businesses tens of millions in lost revenue, inconvenienced half a million people a day, and resulted in at least 682 arrests, but show no sign of abating.

Yesterday organisers said they had seen an increase in people joining up, pointing to warm weather, the Easter holiday, and a David Attenborough documentary about climate change broadcast on Thursday evening as motivators. 

The overstretched Met issued a plea that the willingness of so many people to be arrested was causing a ‘logistical problem’ for cell space and the wider criminal justice system. 

Yesterday Dame Emma Thompson poured scorn on the Metropolitan Police’s decision to escalate its approach on the fifth day of the protests having taken a hammering for its light-touch strategy earlier in the week.

She said: ‘We didn’t ask for police resources, that is their decision. It’s not like we are burning things down. The police turned up because they have been asked to turn up. They decided to spend their money in this way, which I personally think is a waste of taxpayers’ money. We aren’t doing anything violent.’

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