Extinction Rebellion Brent activists reflect on week-long peaceful protest as police clear Trafalgar Square site

Members of the XR Brent group at Trafalgar Square. Picture: Tim Hoy

Members of the XR Brent group at Trafalgar Square. Picture: Tim Hoy - Credit: Archant

Fifty members of Extinction Rebellion Brent, including a former police officer, a retired firefighter and a doctor, spent last week protesting against the government’s perceived lack of action on climate change.

Members of XR Brent at the climate rebellion in central London. Picture: Sian Griffiths

Members of XR Brent at the climate rebellion in central London. Picture: Sian Griffiths - Credit: Archant

And they were today planning their next steps after police unexpectedly - and some say unlawfully - shut down the peaceful protests at Trafalgar Square and Vauxhall on Monday night with little notice.

It came after an eight-day show of solidarity that had already seen 1,400 people arrested. Among them was retired doctor Jonathan Fluxman, from Willesden.

He was arrested on Wednesday along with other campaigners for refusing police requests to move from a seated protest on Horse Guards Road.

The group was taken to Croydon police station where he was detained in a cell and released within a couple of hours.

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He said: "It was stressful and a bit scary but this is a time where we have to stand up and be counted. As a doctor I feel very strongly that I've spent my whole working life looking after patients and the local community and the threat posed by climate change is an enormous issue that we have to face urgently.

"I have children and a grandson and I really fear for their future. We want the government to see the writing on the wall and turn this impending disaster around."

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XR Brent has 150 to 200 members in all. The group demand the government "tell the truth" about climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025. They are also calling for the government to create a citizen's assembly on climate change.

Former Met Police detective sergeant Paul Stephens has campaigned with XR Brent since April. He volunteers as a police liaison and says he has taken part in every protest he can since he joined. Paul said: "My work in the police was about public safety and identifying risks and protecting the public.

"It's about protecting the public from the biggest disaster and threat to humankind. We're just asking people to make small changes and listen. For a long time I thought making change happen would be impossible and then I found XR and I found their determination incredible."

Retired firefighter Sian Griffiths said: "I have children and grandchildren and I want them to be safe and live long, happy lives but if something doesn't change for the better that won't happen. It's just about individuals taking a stand peacefully. I'm far from perfect, but I'm trying to do what I can - change has to start somewhere."

David, 38, a coordinator for the group, said he hopes the protests will increase national awareness about the climate crisis. He told the Kilburn Times: "The government is not telling us the truth about how serious the situation is. The next generation will struggle to feed themselves at the rate we are going now."

He added: "We want to reflect how diverse Brent is as a borough. We want to engage with other community groups and get them involved." Contact them through facebook.com/XRBrentLondon, instagram.com/XRBrentLondon or twitter.com/XRBrentLondon.

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