LONDON — At least four climate change protesters were arrested after fights broke out at subway stations during Thursday morning's commute in London as demonstrations by the Extinction Rebellion group movement disrupted services and enraged travelers.
British Transport Police said in a statement that the arrests were made after three stations were affected by simultaneous protests, resulting in delays for two underground lines. The protest was part of a series of demonstrations beginning last week by Extinction Rebellion, also known as XR, an environmental movement that aims to disrupt daily life in order to push the public and governments to take action on climate change.
At Canning Town station in east London, commuters threw drinks at one protester who was walking on top of a train before pulling him off and launching into a fight, video shared on social media shows.
"One commuter shouted 'I need to get to work, I have to feed my kids,' when the protestors initially went up," Mahatir Pasha, a reporter for NBC News' British partner ITN, said in a tweet.
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Transit police had warned the protest organizers ahead of Thursday's incidents not to impact the subway network upon learning a demonstration was planned. The number of officers on patrol were also increased in anticipation of any incidents.
London's Metropolitan Police also issued a city-wide ban against the protesters on Monday, prohibiting them from assembling for the remainder of the week. Extinction Rebellion filed a legal application to have the ban reviewed and overturned by the courts, arguing it infringes on people's freedom of speech and assembly.
Awaiting a court ruling, activists have continued to defy the ban by participating in demonstrations at Trafalgar Square in Central London on Wednesday and the subway disruptions on Thursday.
Extinction Rebellion launched in the U.K. with the demands that governments tell the public the truth about climate change and make an emergency declaration to reduce carbon emissions to net-zero by 2025, as well as set up a citizens' assembly. The movement has expanded globally with protests across Europe, in the United States and as far as India.
In London, where some of the biggest demonstrations have occurred, both officials and commuters were quick to point out that the activists were blocking an environmentally-friendly form of transportation on Thursday.
"The Tube and rail networks are one of the greenest transport methods in London, any action goes against what they campaign for and will only cause misery for London’s commuters," British Transport Police said in a statement Wednesday.
At the Shadwell station, where activists glued themselves to a train, video shared on Twitter shows angry travelers yelling at two protesters, calling them hypocrites. "You're stopping an electric train. Are you guys really that f****** stupid?" one man said, with another person pointing out the light rail service helps the environment.
Extinction Rebellion defended the actions of its members in a statement saying they were non-violent and the disruption was proportionate to the ecological emergency facing the planet.
"We will all encounter far greater disruption in the future if we don’t radically change our society," said Valerie Milner-Brown, a spokesperson for the group.
Linda Givetash is a reporter based in London. She previously worked for The Canadian Press in Vancouver and Nation Media in Uganda.