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London Protesters Pressure British Government To Address Climate Change

Apr 17, 2019
Originally published on April 17, 2019 8:13 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now let's move to London, where protesters have blocked traffic in parts of the city for several days now to put pressure on the British government to address climate change. Demonstrators have shut down 55 bus routes and, according to police, affected half a million people. Police have already made nearly 300 arrests. Here's NPR's Frank Langfitt in London.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: It's mid-afternoon in Oxford Circus, and it's turned into a giant political street party right here in the center of London. In the middle of this crossroads is a pink sailboat that somebody wheeled in. And a bunch of rappers have been performing up on the sailboat. And over here, I can see a bunch of townspeople are serving food.

ALICE SPEARMAN: I just couldn't miss it. I just have to be here.

LANGFITT: Alice Spearman (ph) traveled from Hereford, southwest of Birmingham. She's a high school senior who's participated in school strikes over climate change. The words action now are written on her forehead.

SPEARMAN: The government are not taking this seriously. We need people to acknowledge that, actually, we are in a state of climate emergency. And it's only going to get worse. And I am very scared for my future.

LANGFITT: David Gillam is Herefordshire coordinator for Extinction Rebellion, the group behind the protests.

DAVID GILLAM: We're looking for a zero-carbon Britain by 2025, which means reducing our emissions very seriously, very rapidly.

LANGFITT: What sacrifices would we have to make? Be honest.

GILLAM: We would probably have to eat a lot more local food. So things would have to be grown locally and not brought from such a distance. Certainly, people would probably have to fly less.

LANGFITT: Nearby, Barry Nash (ph) leans against the stoplight watching the protest. He manages drivers who deliver industrial parts here but sent them home because the demonstrations made traffic impossible. Nash generally supports the protesters' goals but not their methods.

BARRY NASH: I understand the reason why, but it affects a lot of us everyday people who are just trying to earn a living. If I was outside your house and I stopped you from going to work, would you get upset with me? Yes, exactly.

LANGFITT: In addition to Oxford Circus, the demonstrators have taken control of Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge and Parliament Square. Extinction Rebellion says it plans to expand its protests to disrupt London Tube service today. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.