Global climate strike protesters arrested as Britain braces for weekend of chaos

Protesters are beginning to gather ahead of the UK Student Climate Network’s Global Climate Strike at Millbank in London – PA

Millions of people are taking to the streets across the world in what is expected to be the largest climate protest in history.

But already today, two protesters have been arrested in London for breaching public order conditions that restrict the gathering to the Millbank area.

Some of Friday’s first protests were held in Australia, where an estimated 300,000 people gathered at more than 100 rallies calling for action to guard against climate change, with further demonstrations held across parts of Asia.

Protesters joining the climate strikes in Britain can expect a day of unseasonably warm weather as they call on businesses and politicians to cut emissions.

Children and young people across the country are preparing to walk out of lessons and lectures, with hundreds of thousands of workers expected to join them.

Police arrest a protester after issuing a section 14 notice at an Extinction Rebellion gathering Credit: Thomas Bowles

In Westminster, the protests will start at 11am, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn set to address crowds this afternoon.

But the Department for Education has echoed teachers unions in warning that whilst they “encourage constructive engagement” it shouldn’t “come at the expense of our children’s education or excessive disruption”. 

Teachers have been told that if they encourage students to attend or fail to record absences they put themselves at risk of legal or disciplinary action. ” data-reactid=”35″>Teachers have been told that if they encourage students to attend or fail to record absences they put themselves at risk of legal or disciplinary action. 

The protests are part of a snowballing movement sparked by teenage activist Greta Thunberg’s school strikes outside the Swedish parliament.

What is happening in Britain today?

The UK Student Climate Network (UKSCN) says more than 200 events are taking place across the UK, with – for the first time – adults being encouraged to join the youngsters as they strike.

Among the many trade unions throwing their weight behind the strikes are the TUC Congress, the University and College Union and Unite.

Some businesses are actively supporting their workers to take action, with outdoor clothing company Patagonia closing stores and offices globally, and taking out adverts to support the strikers.

The Co-operative Bank has also teamed up with Unite to support its workforce to take part in the climate strikes.

But business, energy and clean growth minister Kwasi Kwarteng said he could not endorse children leaving school to take part.

Business, energy and clean growth minister Kwasi Kwarteng said he could not endorse children leaving school to take part Credit: Victoria Jones/PA 

He told BBC Breakfast on Friday that he supports the “energy and creativity” of students, but said time spent in school is “incredibly important”.

When asked if the Government is listening to the young protesters, he added: “Their voices are being heard.

“What I do support is their energy, their creativity, and the fact that they have completely mastered these issues and take them very seriously.

“I am not going to endorse people leaving school because I think education, time spent in school, is incredibly important.”

Why have people been arrested?

The Met police has issued strict instructions that restricts protests to a small area of Westminster.

In order to impose this condition, the Met required evidence that the procession may result in serious disruption to communities in London. Latest intelligence reports suggest that such serious disruption is an objective of this protest and is likely to occur, and as such, conditions have been imposed.

The conditions imposed under Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 stipulate that:

– Any assembly by organisers, members, participants, associates, supporters and sympathisers of “Global Climate Strike” (whether or not they are members of this group) must take place in Millbank and Abingdon Street London, SW1P, from the stage area on South of Dean Stanley Street, to the junction of Abingdon Street with Parliament Square.

– Assembly cannot take place in any other part of London.

– Any assembly must conclude at 15:30hrs on Friday, 20 September.

One man is led away outside King’s College, in London Credit: Martyn Wheatley / i-Images

The Gold commander for the event, Commander Dave Musker, said: “We respect the right to protest; however, what we will not tolerate are protestors committing criminal offences and disproportionately stopping people going about their lawful business in London. 

“Anyone who knowingly fails to comply with these conditions or incites others to fail to comply will be committing an offence and will be liable to arrest. I will not allow the actions of a few to seriously hinder the day-to-day activities of the vast majority of Londoners, or visitors. The cumulative impact of these protests has been very significant in terms of serious disruption. 

“I have a proportionate policing operation in place and we will be proactive in ensuring any impact on our communities is minimised; anyone who is intent on violence is dealt with swiftly and robustly.

“A designated area has been agreed for the protests to take place in and I urge those attending the Global Strike Youth 4 Climate protests to comply with the law and do so in that location.”

What disruption is expected in the coming days?

On Saturday Extinction Rebellion plan to blockade the Port of Dover for four hours. The “No Food on a Dying Planet” action at the Kent port is expected to be mirrored across the Channel by other Extinction Rebellion groups.

On Sunday, as the Labour Party conference gets underway in Brighton, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced that more than 20km of road in central London will be shut along with a further 340 streets which will be turned into “play areas”.

But the move has been criticised as a “PR stunt” which will cost £1million which could have been invested in “proper measures to improve air quality”.

On the Ground in London, with Lizzie Roberts

Our reporter Lizzie Roberts is on the streets of Westminster following the demonstration. She’s been talking to students and teachers who have joined in.

She writes:  A London primary school, John Stainer of Brockley, has accompanied over 100 children to the climate strike. Headteacher Sue Harte said the children, aged 4-11, are exercising their democratic right as part of their British values.

She said: “Our school council has been learning about democracy they are exercising their democratic right to protest, lots of other kids have come with their parents. That’s one of the British values it’s an important part of their education. 

“With staff we brought the school council of 16 students but there are nearly 100 others being brought with their parents. 

“I think they (schools which don’t allow kids to protest) should realise that they could let the children exercise their democratic rights under British values. I expect that might change as these protests keep happening.

“The issue won’t go away and the children want to exercise their democratic right so who am I to stop them?

“Obviously it has to be done safely but who am I to stop them?”

 

Protests around the world

The first large-scale protests of Friday’s “global climate strike” took place in Sydney and Canberra, with demonstrators calling on leaders in Australia, the world’s largest exporter of coal and liquid natural gas, to take more drastic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Similar rallies are planned for around the world, with 800 events set to take place in the US and 400 in Germany.

The protests come ahead of a climate summit at the UN next week convened by secretary-general Antonio Guterres to urge countries to up their climate efforts.

Much steeper measures are needed across the globe to prevent temperature rises of more than 1.5C (2.7F) or 2C (3.6F) to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

As if to underline the urgency of the issue, the mercury is set to hit 26C (78.8F) in parts of Britain this weekend – 8C above the average for the time of year.

People display placards during a rally as part of a global climate change campaign at Sanur beach on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali Credit: AFP