Extinction Rebellion activists glued their hands to granite stones on the ground outside Leicester Square Underground Station in central London on Monday to urge the government to tackle air pollution.
Protesters in yellow suits gathered at 6:30, laying down 25 yellow granite stones with the logos of Extinction Rebellion on them. Eight activists stuck their hands on the stones and sat on the ground.
They also parked a truck on Cranbourn Street. Activists put a blue banner on it, which reads “AIR POLLUTION KILLS 25 LONDONERS EACH DAY”.
Breaking: XR shut Cranbourne St by Leicester Square @ 6:45. #TheAirWeGrieve.
Two million people are living with illegal air pollution in London today, including 400,000 children. Toxic air contributes to between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths a year across the UK.#12DaysOfCrisis pic.twitter.com/sUi1oPzMuA
— Extinction Rebellion UK 🗳️🌍 (@XRebellionUK) December 9, 2019
Protesters called the demonstration “The Air We Grieve”. 25 stones represented 25 Londoners that die because of air pollution every day.
Police later came and got activists off the road. One police officer who did not reveal his name said they moved the protesters away “carefully” at around 10:00. Seven protesters were arrested. No clash occurred among them.
A team of workers also came to clean the roadblocks. They used hammers to shatter the stones so that they could take the debris away.
Dr. Vishal Chauhan, the spokesman of this demonstration, said that air pollution is killing people, but the government is not able to cope with current crisis.
“The biggest threats to the health and safety of British people is the climate crisis. And if the government is not capable of doing what’s necessary to sort out air pollution, how can we trust them to build resilient food systems, to sort out water shortages, to sort out the strain on our emergency services that come from increased disasters,” said Dr. Chauhan.
He also said that people need a system change because current system does not prioritise citizens’ well-being and health.
However, André Spicer, a professor of organisational behaviour at the Cass Business School at City, University of London, has criticised the tactics of Extinction Rebellion, according to the Guardian.
“Acts of civil disobedience such as occupying bridges, guerrilla gardening, and protest puppetry may appeal to seasoned activists, but are a turnoff for thousands of potential supporters who might walk past such occupations,” said Spicer.
Extinction Rebellion has been requesting the government to pass a three demands bill, which includes telling the truth of climate emergency, acting now by cutting greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025, and establishing a Citizen’s Assembly to cope with the climate crisis.
“Once we’ve modelled that in the UK, we have a model we can share to the world. Let’s deal with the UK first,” said Saz, a protester who refused to reveal her surname.
However, beforehand, the UK’s policies of improving air quality have been found unlawful three times and taken to Europe’s highest court. The European Commission gave the UK a final warning for its failure in tackling air pollution in January this year, said the Guardian.
Other strikes of Extinction Rebellion are also ongoing in various areas in London. 76 years old Peter Cole and 67 years old Marko Stepanov are still waiting outside the headquarter of the Conservative Party to discuss the three demands bill with Boris Johnson. Today marks the fourth week of their hunger strike. They have not eaten almost any food for 22 days.