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Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera

Extinction Rebellion launches four-day mass action in London

A demonstrator wears a costume as people protest during the Extinction Rebellion's 'The Big One' event in London [Henry Nicholls/Reuters]

Environmental campaign group Extinction Rebellion has begun four days of action in London, promising less disruption and more inclusion than the mass blockades that became its trademark.

“This is about broadening the invite and bringing far more people in far more groups on board,” said Clare Farrell, the co-founder of the group known as XR, on Friday.

“For a lot of people, going on a march like coming to a picket is a first step,” she told AFP news agency, promising targeted “non-violent civil disobedience”.

Activists protest outside the UK Parliament in London [Kin Cheung/AP Photo]

XR has in recent years garnered media attention through disruption, hitting roads, airports and other public transport networks with direct action protests against climate change.

But in January, it called a temporary halt to its high-profile demonstrations and instead promised to mobilise huge numbers against what it sees as government inaction against global warming.

The group hopes that 100,000 people will gather outside parliament this weekend for “The Big One” event, and so far has said it has seen 30,000 people register their interest.

The action coincides with the London Marathon on Sunday and discussions have been held with race organisers to reduce disruption.

Dr Rita Issa, a general practitioner (GP) and climate health researcher who attended the protest on Friday, told Al Jazeera that tackling the climate crisis would have beneficial effects on health in society.

“I work as a GP in East London, where we have quite often illegal levels of air pollution. What that means for me as a doctor, in practice, is that I see children with a 10 percent reduced lung capacity as a result of air pollution,” she told Al Jazeera.

“Taking action on the climate crisis is good for our future but it’s also good for the health of the population here today.”

Thousands of people took part in the first day of the protest [Henry Nicholls/Reuters]

Julia Hailes, a climate activist for 35 years, was among those who set up stalls in central London on Friday.

“People are becoming aware … that we are facing a devastating future and we have a window of opportunity where we need to do something about it,” she said. “The Earth is dying. We have to stop this.”

Her son, Connor Bryant, 28, said his children and great-grandchildren will be more affected by climate change.

“So action is in some ways so important for me to feel that I’m doing what is required to protect everyone I will ever love,” he added.

He urged more people to join the movement: “The longer that businesses and governments wait to react, the more extreme the response will be.”

More disruptive, drastic action was “inevitable the closer we get to the fire”, he said.

Protester Lisa Milne said she was hesitant about taking action that caused “friction” with the public.

“I was happier to come along this time and join in and show support and show my concern for the planet and what we’re doing to it,” she added.

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