Extinction Rebellion has said it has “more disruptive” plans up its sleeve if protesters are barred from Westminster next week.
As part of two weeks of action in London starting on Monday, the climate change group has announced plans to shut down Westminster by blockading “every single road” going through the area.
The blockades will cover the area “from Trafalgar Square to Lambeth Bridge to Victoria Street”, activists said, with protesters in place “to make sure no traffic can get through to the central area of the government and the executive”.
But at a meeting with the media on Thursday, the group warned it had other plans in place if activists were unable to reach SW1.
“We have a plan that is in and around Westminster,” an activist named Ronan told journalists. “If we’re not able to get to those places, there are other plans which are potentially more disruptive.”
Extinction Rebellion has had meetings with the police about the group’s Westminster plans, he said. “We’re not in a quarrel with the police – we could talk lots about the police, but we need to focus on the government.
“This rebellion is going to the government and we will centre it there. If we don’t get to those sites, then there are other options.”
It comes after 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.
“People are worried about safety in their community and I’m having to tell the commissioner you’ve got to do what you think is best – and the commissioner is diverting police away from neighbourhoods to parts of London to police the protests you are conducting,” Khan told LBC.
Figures published on Wednesday suggested that protests in the capital in 2019 had been a bigger drain on frontline police resources than the London Bridge terror attack and Grenfell tragedy in 2017.
According to the data, the Met Police pulled frontline officers away from their duties to tackle protests more times between April and October 2019 than when the force was dealing with the 2017 tragedies.
But Extinction Rebellion – which is calling on the government to outline its plans on the climate emergency – said it expected its October protest to be five times the size of the action it carried out in April, when protesters defaced the Shell building, stopped trains and blocked iconic locations in the capital.
The group said around 9,500 people had signed up for the Westminster shutdown, with almost 4,500 prepared to be arrested. More than 1,700 people have offered to go on hunger strike, they added.
But activist Robin Boardman said he expected the protest to be even bigger, with “at least between 20,000 and 30,000 people out on the streets”.
“Really what we’re going to see on the streets is a much larger number than that [9,500], because people bring their friends, they bring their family,” Boardman said. “This is not a political issue, it’s a social issue…”
The group – which has also called for the government to make the UK net carbon zero by 2025, 25 years earlier than the current target – said the action in London would include a sit-in at City Airport, which they will try to hold for three days.
The Met Police said five men aged between 34 and 83 and three women aged between 34 and 60 were arrested.