Arrests top 700 as climate change protesters in London block Oxford Circus
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Arrests top 700 as climate change protesters in London block Oxford Circus

Police say large number of detainees have created logistical problems as Extinction Rebellion demonstrations continue for sixth day

Police officers move climate change activists with their hands glued to a pipe as they continue to block the road at Oxford Circus in London on April 20, 2019. (Niklas HALLE'N / AFP)
Police officers move climate change activists with their hands glued to a pipe as they continue to block the road at Oxford Circus in London on April 20, 2019. (Niklas HALLE'N / AFP)

LONDON — More than 710 people have been arrested and over two dozen charged since climate change protests began earlier this week in the British capital, London police said Saturday, as the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations rumbled into a sixth day.

The protests started Monday and have at times paralyzed parts of London, with peaceful demonstrations at Waterloo Bridge, Oxford Circus and other key landmarks.

Protesters were out again Saturday, urging the British government to make fighting climate change its top priority.

A total of 718 people have been arrested and 28 people have been charged in relation to the protests, which have caused disruption for commuters in the British capital.

Climate change activists hold placards as demonstrators continue to block the road at Oxford Circus in London on April 20, 2019. (Niklas HALLE’N / AFP)

The protests are organized by the campaign group Extinction Rebellion, which was established last year in Britain by academics and has become one of the world’s fastest-growing environmental movements.

Campaigners want governments to declare a climate and ecological emergency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025, halt biodiversity loss and be led by new “citizens’ assemblies on climate and ecological justice”.

Climate change activists in red costume stand among the police as demonstrators continue to block the road on Waterloo Bridge in London on April 20, 2019. (Niklas HALLE’N / AFP)

London police have taken a cautious approach rather than a massive show of force to remove the demonstrators, saying they respect the right to peaceful protest.

They still had to ask neighboring forces for some 200 additional officers to help cope with the situation, and many officers had their weekend leaves cancelled.

Police have been trying to confine the protests to one site in London, at Marble Arch on the corner of Hyde Park, but the protesters have ignored the threat of arrest and continued to block other sites.

Demonstrators were continuing to block Waterloo Bridge in the city and the central Oxford Circus junction despite the removal by police of the pink sailing boat which had acted as a natural focal point for the movement.

Police officers surround the pink boat which climate change activists used as a central point of their encampment as they occupied the road junction at Oxford Circus in central London on April 19, 2019. (Tolga Akmen / AFP)

“We are trying our best to give the businesses a chance to return to ‘business as usual’,” police said.

“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.”

The large number of arrests has created a “logistical problem” for the police in terms of cell space and also the “wider criminal justice system.”

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