Extinction Rebellion: Climate protest brings London to standstill

Tuesday 8th October 2019 09:38:16 in English News by Xafiiska Hargeysa
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    Extinction Rebellion: Climate protest brings London to standstill

    Extinction Rebellion: Climate protest brings London to standstill

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Extinction Rebellion: Climate protest brings London to standstill

Hundreds of climate protesters have blocked roads in central London to launch a two-week protest as thousands of activists are expected to descend on the British capital aiming to occupy key sites around government departments and the Houses of Parliament.

Extinction Rebellion activist groups from across the country on Monday took drums and banners to 11 sites around Westminster, besieging bridges and roads leading to the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Across the capital, meanwhile, signs reading "Business as usual = death"popped up on bridges and trains stations.

As some protesters marched from the Houses of Parliament down Whitehall, a street lined with government departments and ministries, a group of performers wearing crimson gowns took their silent walking protest to the iconic Trafalgar Square.

Brazilian choreographer Tiago Gambogi, one of thecoordinators of the group known as"Red Brigade",was dragged away by police following a stop-and-search.

"In 2012 I was in the Amazon, and a group of fishermen and indigenous people said you must come and help us to stop building the Belo Monte dam in Altamira. That's when I started doing activist performances,"the 43-year-old earliertold Al Jazeera, dressed as a clownish scarecrow in a mining hat.

Nearby, a group of protesters blocked off all entrances to Trafalgar Square bylocking themselves to vehicles including a symbolic funeral car.

Artists, musicians and other celebrities including actress Juliet Stevenson and environmental journalist George Monbiot were among those present.


Scores arrested

Earlier in the day, protesters had locked themselves onto a fake nuclear missile in front of the Ministry of Defence, leading to the arrest of 23 people including an 81-year-old Quaker and a 66-year-old retired naval officer, according to the group.

By early afternoon, police said they had carried out 135 arrests. Eleven people had been held on Saturday and Sunday on suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance. Food, bins and portable toilets were confiscated from a warehouse in south London, as well as six vehicles used to transport them.

Extinction Rebellion, which says ithas more than 480 active groups in 72 countries,is known for its civil disobedience tactics, including activists volunteering for arrest.

"I'm in a privileged position," said Joel, one of the activists locked to the funeral car on Trafalgar Square who said he was willing to get detained. "Many people around the world can't protest because they haven't got the resources or the time, or they're scared of the harm it might cause them," he added.

Throughout the day, volunteers brought cushions, food and water to those who locked themselves to visitors and to each other.

[Ylenia Gostoli/Al Jazeera]
Police said they had carried out 135 arrests[Ylenia Gostoli/Al Jazeera]

'Up to us to raise awareness'

In April, thousands of peopleblocked sitesaround London by disrupting traffic with "mass die-ins", glueing themselves to trains and smashing the windows of oil giant Shell's headquarters. More than 1,000 people were arrested, many of whom are currently facing trial.

This led to the UK government passing a non-binding resolution declaring an environment and climate emergency, one of Extinction Rebellion's key demands. It was approved without a vote after a motion was tabled by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party.

"The science says exactly the opposite of what governments are doing," Max, a 35-year-old molecular geneticist originally fromGermany, told Al Jazeera. "I think none of the governments are really doing enough, and it's up to us to raise awareness."

Simultaneous proteststook place in countries around the world, fromNew Zealandthrough Colombia to theGambia.

In London, Extinction Rebellionexpects between 20,000 and 30,000 people from local groups across the UK to make their way to the capital over the next two weeks, aiming to cause disruption to get the government to act on the climate crisis.

They want the government to commit to reducing carbon emissions to net-zero by 2025 and create a Citizens' Assembly to lead decisions on the climate crisis.

The movement hopes this round of protests will be five times bigger than their "April rebellion", and said that 5,000 people have volunteered to be arrested, 2,245 are willing to go to prison and 1,836 are willing to go on hunger strike.

Planned events include a sit-in at London's City Airport, a march on October 12, and the disruption of an oil and gas summit.

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'Stab in the back': Kurdish forces decry US pullout from Syria

Syrian Democratic Forces denounce US move, pledge to defend 'at all costs' if Turkey carries out long-threatened attack.

The SDF was Washington's main ally in Syria in the fight against ISIL [File: Maya Alleruzzo/AP Photo]
The SDF was Washington's main ally in Syria in the fight against ISIL [File: Maya Alleruzzo/AP Photo]

The Kurdish-led forces who helped theUnited Statesdefeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group in Syria have accused Washington of reneging on its commitments bypulling out troopsfrom the country's northeast and clearing the way for a Turkish assault on the Kurdish-controlled region.

In astatementon Monday, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) pledged to "defend our land at all costs", with the group alsocallingWashington's move "a stab in the back".

The SDF, led by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), was Washington's main ally in Syria in the fight againstISIL. In recent years, they have expanded their control in northern and eastern Syria,in a vast area stretching 480km (300 miles) from the Euphrates River to the Iraq border.

Turkey considers the Kurdish forces a "terrorist organisation" linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long armed campaign for autonomy inTurkey.

The beginning of the US troops' withdrawal came after a statement late on Sunday by the White House that the US would not intervene in the long-threatened Turkish operation. The announcement came after a phone call between US PresidentDonald Trumpand his Turkish counterpart,Recep Tayyip Erdogan.


In early August, the US military, whichhas pledgedto protect the SDF from a Turkish attack, agreed to a "security mechanism" with Ankara, under which Kurdish forces would be pulled back from the Turkey-Syria border and a "safe zone" would be set up for the return of some of the 3.6 million refugees currently in Turkey.

Following the agreement, the SDFdestroyedYPG "fighting positions" in northeast Syria, before beginning topull backfrom near the border.

But Ankara, increasingly unnerved by the Kurdish presence near its border, has long accused Washington of taking "too long" to act on the security deal, and Erdoganannouncedearlier this weekan imminent"air and ground" operation to clear the border region of "terrorists".

'Owed an explanation'

The SDF, in its Monday statement, decried the US's troop withdrawal, saying: "Despite all our efforts to avoid conflict, our commitment to the security mechanism agreement and taking necessary steps on our end, the US forces did not carry out their responsibilities and have withdrawn from border areas with Turkey.

"Turkey's unprovoked attack on our areas will have a negative impact on our fight against ISIS and the stability and peace we have created in the region in the recent years. As the Syrian Democratic Forces, we are determined to protect our land at all costs."

Kino Gabriel, the SDF spokesman, told al-Hadath TV that the US had assured the group it would not allow a Turkish military operation in the region, while Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF's press office,saidin a tweet: "We are not expecting the US to protect NE #Syria. But people here are owed an explanation regarding security mechanism deal, destruction of fortifications and the failure of US to fulfill their commitments."

The SDF, comprising both Kurdish and Arab militias, reportedly has 60,000 fighters under its command. The group said it lost 11,000 fighters in the battle against ISIL. There are around 1,000 US troops in northern Syria.

Syria-Tukey map

Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for Erdogan, told Al Jazeera the Turkish plan to create a safe zone was in "the interest of Syria's territorial integrity and in the Syrian people as well as Turkey’s national interest".

"Because that area has become over the last two - three years, a safe haven for PKK terrorists," he said from the Serbian capital, Belgrade. "We have no interest in occupying any part of Syria, east of the Euphrates or the west.Our goal is to secure our border and make sure the Syrian refugees go back to their homes that they’ve come from, securely and voluntarily."

On Monday, Trump defended the decision in a series of tweets, saying: "The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so. They have been fighting Turkey for decades. I held off this fight for almost three years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars."

Brett McGurk, Trump's former envoy to the coalition fighting ISIL, sharply criticised the president.

"Donald Trump is not a Commander-in-Chief," he wrote on Twitter. "He makes impulsive decisions with no knowledge or deliberation. He sends military personnel into harm's way with no backing. He blusters and then leaves our allies exposed when adversaries call his bluff or he confronts a hard phone call."

McGurk quit his post last December when Trump first ordered the full withdrawal of US troops from Syria.

"Bottom line: Trump tonight after one call with a foreign leader provided a gift to Russia, Iran and ISIS," McGurk said.

Russia and Iran are the main military allies of Syrian PresidentBashar al-Assadin Syria's eight-year war.