More than 200 people have been arrested the first day of Extinction Rebellion’s mass protest in London.
It comes as the climate change activists attempt to shutdown Westminster for two weeks in a bid to force government departments to outline their plans to tackle the climate emergency.
At a meeting last week, Extinction Rebellion laid out its strategy to blockade “every single road” in Westminster, with protesters in place “to make sure no traffic can get through to the central area of the government and the executive”.
The protests – which the group said would be “five times” the size of its April rebellion – will also include a three-day sit-in at City Airport.
Drumming, whistles and chanting rang through the streets of the capital on Monday morning as protesters attempted to block the routes into the centre of government around parliament and Whitehall.
As the protests got underway, Met Police announced that officers had already arrested 21 people in connection with the demonstration by 8am. By 5.30pm, the number of arrests had risen to 217.
According to the group, 81-year-old Sarah Lasenby – a Quaker and retired social worker – was among those arrested after she tried to block Victoria Embankment outside the Ministry of Defence.
She told reporters: “The whole thing is so urgent that it is imperative the government should take serious actions and put pressure on other states and global powers to radically reduce the use of fossil fuels, even if this means we need to reduce our comfort at home and so much flying.”
Police were also seen cutting two Extinction Rebellion protesters out of a car blocking off Victoria Embankment, with onlookers reporting that they were locked to a piece of concrete “lodged in the vehicle”.
Meanwhile, another 11 activists were arrested over the weekend.
Last week, London mayor Sadiq Khan criticised the group for diverting police resources away from other parts of London, saying the action would lead to “under-resourced and over-stretched” officers working 12 hour shifts.
According to Extinction Rebellion, almost 4,500 of its activists are prepared to be arrested during the protests, while more than 1,700 have offered to go on hunger strike. During its April protest, more than 1,100 people were arrested.
Extinction Rebellion protests are planned in 60 cities across the world to coincide with demonstrations in London.
In Berlin and Amsterdam, activists have blocked major roads and set up camp outside of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s office.