Efforts by Extinction Rebellion activists to shut down Westminster have been boosted by more than £850,000 in public donations – including an “unprecedented” £100,000 in just 12 hours.
For the past six days, climate change demonstrators have brought parts of the capital to a standstill, blockading roads in and out of Westminster, glueing themselves to government buildings and attempting to ground flights at London City Airport. On Friday, protesters attempted to block the entrance to the BBC headquarters.
Met Police officers have already made more than 1,200 arrests in connection with the protests, which are due to last for two weeks.
Ahead of the action, Andrew Medhurst – Extinction Rebellion’s finance coordinator – said he expected the protests to cost “the best part of a million pounds”.
“I hope there’s a [funding] boost in October, because I’m relying on approximately £15,000 to £20,000 a day to pay for all of this,” he told reporters at an event last week.
But less than half-way through the protests, a crowdfunder set up by the group has almost met that figure. On Saturday morning, the amount donated by the public stood at £854,926.
According to Medhurst, the biggest spike in donations came after police raided a building where protesters had stored equipment and supplies ahead of the action.
“On Monday evening we sent an email which basically said: ‘Can you financially support us?’” he told HuffPost UK.
“Over the course of 12 hours – from around 7pm on Monday until 7am the following morning – we had raised another £100,000. That’s really been unprecedented… of all the spikes we’ve seen, we’ve never seen anything quite as big as that.”
Medhurst added: “On Saturday afternoon, our crowdfunder said £408,000. It now [as of Friday October 11] says £835,000, so that’s basically £427,000 in six days.”
But it is not just people out of the public eye who have offered financial backing to Extinction Rebellion, which is trying to force the government to publish its plans for a climate emergency.
On Thursday, it emerged that Sir Christopher Hohn – one of the UK’s wealthiest men – had donated £50,000 to the cause.
He told The Telegraph he had given the money “because humanity is aggressively destroying the world with climate change and there is an urgent need for us all to wake up to this fact”.
Meanwhile, Extinction Rebellion’s financial reports reveal £300,000 in donations from rock band Radiohead between March and September, plus £20,000 from Greenpeace.
In September, Aileen Getty – whose family fortune came from oil – also donated £485,000 to the Climate Emergency Fund (CEF), which supports the group. In the past six months, Extinction Rebellion received more than £320,000 from the CEF.
But what is all this money being spent on? According to Medhurst, the group expect to spend around £300,000 during its October protests on “events and tech” – namely, stages, toilets, power, sound equipment and “feeding 20,000 rebels three times a day for two weeks”.
Another £200,000 has been budgeted for arts and actions, including art displays, posters, banners, superglue and handcuffs.
On Thursday activists created a “fledgling forest” outside parliament, offering every MP a tree to plant in their constituency in a call for the “radical reforestation” of the UK.
Between £100,000 and £150,000 has also been spent on “media and messaging” in the two months leading up the protests, Medhurst added.
There is also a budget to train people to be legal observers during arrests, he said, while other cash has been spent constructing quiet areas for protesters to “calm down”.
Purchasing new tents has also become another major cost, Medhurst explained.
“One of the things that has happened this week is that police have literally been grabbing and removing the tents of rebels who have been sleeping on the streets of London to an extent we didn’t expect,” he said.
“So the finance team has been receiving requests from some of our teams to replace the tents of rebels who have had theirs seized.”
This week, the Met Police revealed officers had cleared six of the 12 sites set up by protesters around Westminster, removing 80 tonnes of equipment – enough to fill eight lorries.
But the force’s chief Cressida Dick said having to deal with the protests was leaving the service “stretched” and impeding its ability to respond to other crimes.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Dick said she hoped demonstrators would “protest lawfully” or “go home” after their “failure to take and occupy the streets that they wanted to”.
She said: “If they do that then of course I can deploy many of my officers back to the streets, back to the neighbourhoods, back to the schools, back to the wards of the people of London.
“We are responding to all serious matters and urgent matters of course, carrying on with our crime investigations in homicide or armed robbery… but we’re having to move work from one unit to another and the less urgent, less critical, less important work of course gets delayed.”