At least 90 demonstrators were arrested after eco-activists with Extinction Rebellion staged marches in several UK cities, soon after the group vowed to “peacefully disrupt” parliament until MPs back an “emergency” climate bill.
Campaigners were arrested after they sat in the middle of the road next to Parliament Square to stop traffic.
A sizable crowd of protesters calling for “climate justice” descended on London and Manchester on Tuesday, seen carrying a bright array of signs and placards, while in some areas marching bands joined the procession.
Extinction Rebellion said it planned to “peacefully disrupt the UK Parliament in London” with 10 days of demonstrations until MPs backed the Climate and Ecological, Emergency Bill.
Other planned events in the capital include a “carnival of corruption”, which is due to take place outside the Treasury, and a “walk of shame” near the Bank of England.
Protester Karen Wildin, a 56-year-old tutor from Leicester, said: “I’m here today because I have serious concerns about the future of the planet – we need to put this above anything else.
“Never mind Covid, never mind A-levels, this is the biggest crisis facing us and we need to raise the message as loudly as possible.
“Not a lot has been done on this issue, everyone needs to hear the message.”
Despite a festive atmosphere, however, London’s Metropolitan Police said it had made some 90 arrests by 6 pm local time, including for “breaching public order conditions, obstructing the highway, obstructing police and assault on an emergency worker.”
Some of the arrests, including of 92-year-old Hastings resident John Lynes, were captured in footage that circulated on social media.
The city has increased restrictions due to a recent rise in Covid-19 cases.
Mr Murphy said while the council respected “the right to peaceful protest” this should “not be at the expense of local people”.
He said: “We are in the midst of a global public health crisis and we would ask demonstrators to seriously reconsider their actions at the current time.
“Manchester is currently under increased restrictions to limit the spread of the virus because the number of cases has been rising. Gatherings larger than six should only take place if everyone is exclusively from two households or support bubbles.”
He said the city had one of the “most ambitious carbon targets in the UK” and was “working to become zero carbon by 2038”.
A Titanic-themed demonstration was also held in in Southend-on-Sea where protesters said much of Essex would be underwater by 2050.