Hundreds of climate change protesters brought central Edinburgh to a standstill during last night’s rush hour, blocking one of the capital’s main thoroughfares to traffic for hours.
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Organisers said 32 arrests had been made by 9pm, but Police Scotland said the operation was “still ongoing” and could not confirm a figure last night. Demonstrators who refused to move from the bridge were filmed being led away to waiting police vans or loaded onto a local bus.
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Some protesters were in themed fancy dress, including a Chinese-style dragon. Others banged drums, chanted or played football, while banners reading “the planet is dying” and “we need you to care” were held aloft. The planned protest, which is part of a wider movement demanding global political action to stop climate change, led to long tailbacks in the city centre.
Extinction Rebellion wants the Scottish Government to be bolder on the issue by committing to achieve net zero carbon commissions by 2025 and forming a citizens’ assembly to create new policies.
Tom Younger, who was part of the human barricade at the Princes Street end of the bridge, said the occupation was “part of a much wider movement” that included school strikes over recent months. The 28-year old said: “We need to step up and make our voices heard. We’re demanding the Government goes zero carbon by 2025. It needs to tell citizens the truth about what’s happening.”
The protest is part of an international week of action calling for governments and councils around the world to declare a “climate emergency”.
Dr Anna Fisk, 35, a lecturer in theology and religious studies at the University of Glasgow, said there was “massive frustration” at a lack of action from politicians.
“We wish we didn’t have to disrupt people’s days or cause them inconvenience, but we need to do things like this to get people’s attention and, more importantly, the government’s attention,” she said.
“Unfortunately, things like signing petitions and more conventional protest marches people have been doing for 30 years just haven’t worked.
“Now we need to break the law, we need to be prepared to be arrested. I’m willing to be arrested. It’s not something that I’m looking forward to or think is going to be fun, but I am prepared to do that because it’s so important.”
Lauren McGlynn, 38, a professional photographer, said: “I have two kids and I am terrified for their future. To not take action would be the same as signing their death warrants and I refuse to do that.”
The protest in Edinburgh was held after similar action in London on Monday saw widespread disruption, with demonstrators refusing to end their road blocks and more than 200 arrests made.
Superintendent Bob Paris said Police Scotland had been made aware of the protest in advance and had put in place an operation to provide a “proportionate response”.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are demonstrating this global leadership by setting the most ambitious statutory climate change targets of any country in the world for 2020, 2030 and 2040, which will mean Scotland is carbon neutral by 2050.”