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Met chief condemns 'miserable disruption' caused by protests

Sky News logo Sky News 20/04/2019
a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Police try to move climate activists who have glued their hands to a pipe in Oxford Circus © Getty Police try to move climate activists who have glued their hands to a pipe in Oxford Circus

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick has condemned the "miserable disruption" inflicted on Londoners by Extinction Rebellion - telling demonstrators to protest lawfully or go home.

She vowed that police will continue to make arrests and dismantle furniture blocking the capital's roads on a busy Easter weekend.

Ms Dick said she had never known a single police operation where so many arrests have been made - with more than 750 people detained since the climate change protests began last week.

She said: "I have never - I've been a police officer for 36 years - I have never known an operation, a single operation, in which over 700 people have been arrested.

"It shows we are determined and we will carry on.

"The demonstration has had an impact on the police and Londoners in general. Lots of people have had miserable disruption to their lives."

In a message to the protesters, the Met's most senior officer said: "Please go to Marble Arch where you can protest lawfully. Stop your unlawful protests. And if you don't want to go to Marble Arch, then go home."

Cressida Dick standing in front of a store: Cressida Dick says the protest is unprecedented © Sky News Screen Grab Cressida Dick says the protest is unprecedented

The commissioner said that by blocking routes in Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge, businesses were being affected and "people are losing money". She said it was affecting everybody in the West End.

Defending the Met, which has come in for heavy criticism for not clearing the protesters after almost six days of demonstrations, Ms Dick said she was proud of her officers but they had to work within the law.

"They have been doing a fantastic job and I am extremely proud of them. We have arrested over 700 people and will continue to arrest people," she said..

a group of people holding a sign: Climate change protesters continue demonstration at Oxford Circus, despite the pink boat being towed away © Getty Climate change protesters continue demonstration at Oxford Circus, despite the pink boat being towed away

"We haven't seen anything quite like this in this city or around the country before, in terms of scale, in terms of complexity, and in terms of the tactics that the protesters are using to break the law."

Ms Dick said the Met was being supported by "hundreds of other officers from other forces.

Following disruption at Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge and Parliament Square, the Met has requested extra help from more than 200 officers from forces across South East England.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera: The Metropolitan Police has requested extra help of 200 officers from neighbouring forces © PA The Metropolitan Police has requested extra help of 200 officers from neighbouring forces

On Saturday police stepped up their operations to clear Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge.

Scotland Yard has specifically requested for a "protest removal team" and several "basic deployment units" that would provide support.

At the lorry on Waterloo Bridge, officers were seen around and underneath the truck as they tried to remove campaigners attached to the vehicle.

Over the sound of cutting equipment and hammering, singing could be heard from one protester as officers worked to free them and at least four others.

a group of people standing in front of a building: The boat being removed by police © Sky News Screen Grab The boat being removed by police

As three officers carried a female campaigner away at around 5pm, there were shouts of "we love you" from the protesters gathered on the other side of the police line.

a person wearing sunglasses and smoking a cigarette: Dame Emma  Thompson addressed the protesters © PA Dame Emma Thompson addressed the protesters

Following cries and protests from one of the campaigners under the vehicle, a man was brought out by officers, placed in handcuffs and then put onto a stretcher before being carried away.

a person wearing a microphone: Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, is due to meet British politicians next week © Getty Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, is due to meet British politicians next week

A sign close to one of the wheels of the lorry read "caution my hand is glued".

At least five officers worked under the truck to free the remaining protesters, with a number still on the roof.

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By about 5.50pm on Saturday, police had removed all six of the campaigners in an operation that took almost six hours.

On Friday, police dismantled the pink ship in the centre of Oxford Circus which had been a focal point for climate change protesters this week, saying it wanted to give businesses in London's Oxford Street a chance to return to "business as usual".

The boat, which is named after murdered environmentalist Berta Caceres, was dismantled several hours after Dame Emma Thompson used it as a stage to rally protesters.

Meanwhile, the teenage founder of the recent school strikes against climate change has said she hopes to join the protesters when she arrives in London over the Easter weekend.

In pictures: Notre Dame ravaged by fire and other striking photos of the week [Photos]

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish activist, is due to meet senior British politicians next week having already met with Pope Francis and addressed the EU Parliament.

She told The Guardian she would also like to join the protests if they are still going when she arrives.

She added: "I would love to participate in their protests while in London if there is time and if they are still protesting.

"I think it's one of the most important and hopeful movements of our time. Civil disobedience is necessary to create attention to the ongoing climate and ecological crisis."

In pictures: Stunning winners of the Sony World Photography Awards [Photos]


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