30 climate activists were arrested on Saturday after they conducted a sit-down protest blocking Lambeth Bridge in central London. The group was protesting the jailing of nine Insulate Britain members earlier that week.
Arrests of protesters on Lambeth Bridge were the result of Public Order Act conditions being imposed upon the sit-in, after the bridge had been closed to traffic for several hours on Saturday as a result of the demonstration. The protest initially consisted of around 250 people who had marched from the Royal Courts of Justice. An offshoot protest also happened at Vauxhall Bridge, but police announced that had also been reopened.
The original nine protesters that activists on Saturday were demonstrating in support of were sentenced last week for breaching a court injunction that was attempting to stop Insulate Britain from further road-blocking protests. Their sentencing time varies by individual, one protester is facing a six-month period behind bars.
The protest on Saturday began with more than 200 people gathering outside the Royal Courts of Justice to support the imprisoned Insulate Britain members. They then marched to Westminster, and after, created the bridge block at around 2.10pm. Campaigners sat across the road and police diverted traffic to a different route. Around early evening the Met imposed public order conditions and demanded that protesters leave. Insulate Britain has said that they did not organise the event.
Participants at the protest stressed the importance of their work. Gabriella Ditton, 27, said “I have known for a couple of years that the only thing that is going to serve us is civil resistance. I have faith in people coming together […] Solutions to this crisis exist, we just need the political will to do it.” Zoe Cohen, 51, had travelled from the north of England to show her support, saying, “I am angry, distraught and grieving for the huge amount of nature that we have already lost.”
“Any disruption is microscopic to the suffering of millions of people who are dying now across the world due to this crisis.” She also highlighted that “ordinary people should not have to do this and risk prison”, drawing attention to the government’s shortcomings on ensuring the protection of our climate.
Protesters held signs bearing messages such as “betrayed by my government” and “COP has failed”. The recent discussion of “sleaze” within the Tory party and the disappointing results of COP26 have drawn several questions as to the government’s commitment to effective climate action. After COP26 failed to deliver enough meaningful commitments to change and it was revealed that the Tory party has taken £1.5 million in donations from oil and gas companies whilst Boris Johnson has been prime minister, many may feel that the government has not been and will never be serious enough about the climate crisis.
Insulate Britain have seen protesting as a way to challenge this and have been organising road blocks since September, when they blocked several exits off the M25 during rush hour. The group is calling for the government to enact a complete overhaul of home insulation by 2030 to tackle household emissions.