Environmental radicals Extinction Rebellion blocked off Tower Bridge and London Bridge for hours at a time this week with several vehicles, to protest City firms’ investments in fossil fuels.
Activists first blocked Tower Bridge on Monday afternoon from about 2.30pm until about 8.30pm. Some eleven members of the group, also known as XR, were arrested on Monday as police officers attempted to clear the bridge and get cars moving again. The protest caused major disruption in the area on Monday afternoon.
The group said this protest would be the first in a series of events specifically targeting City financiers.
“XR have closed Tower Bridge with a caravan and a large group are sitting blocking the junction at the north side of the bridge.
“The actions mark the start of a week-long intervention on the City of London. The City is a root cause of the climate and ecological emergency. If it were a country, it would be the ninth biggest carbon emitter on the planet.
“Not one of the top 10 funders in the City has made a serious plan to exit fossil fuels, despite having pledged to go net-zero by 2050.”
Police closed off the area of Tower Bridge Road to stop people approaching the protest. Protesters were finally removed by about 8.30pm on Monday night, meaning they were in place for about six hours.
A spokesperson for the Met Police said: “Officers were on scene almost immediately. We are working with City police to get traffic moving again. Activists are also laying on the junction north of Tower Bridge, this is causing further disruption.”
Officers added on Monday evening that some protesters had walked from Tower Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge, which they briefly succeeded in blocking before being removed by officers.
At least 469 activists have been arrested so far since the latest wave of protests began in London on August 22.
The group caused major disruption again on Tuesday afternoon, blocking off the southern end of London Bridge. The road was cleared again by 7.30pm.
Extinction Rebellion said the police response to their protest was “heavy-handed” and “disturbing”, as officers climbed the bus they were using to block the bridge and were more “aggressive” with the way they removed protesters.
Police said they were using “reasonable and proportionate” force, given activists were trying to block a very busy thoroughfare.
Officers said: “There have been some questions today on our use of force while attempting to disrupt the protest involving Extinction Rebellion’s bus.
“It is very clear that the demo near London Bridge was an attempt to cause a major disruption to one of London’s busiest bridges.
“Seeing this, officers nearby took immediate action to prevent any unreasonable disruption to the highway, and to detain those attempting to cause disruption or who were obstructing officers in the lawful execution of their duty.
“We believe this swift action prevented some protesters from setting up further complex lock-on devices which were inside the bus.
“Given the circumstances and likely disruption to the community, our initial assessment is that their use of force was reasonable and proportionate.”
Officers had arrested 43 protesters by 6.45pm on Tuesday. More protests are expected in London through the rest of the week.