Extinction Rebellion activist shared the tactics they use to get away from police in a documentary airing this Sunday.
In the Channel 5 documentary Extinction Rebellion: The Inside Story, those belonging to the UK branch of the protest movement, known as XR for short, show how they took over Trafalgar Square last October, hiding in plain sight from the police until the very last minute.
The global movement, which was born out of the public’s anger concerning the state of Climate Change, organised street blockages and stunts over the last year as a way to compel governments to take more action against global warming and to raise awareness.
In the Sunday 9pm documentary, an intense clip show activists coming out of the woodwork to take the streets of Trafalgar Square, a stone throw away from Buckingham Palace.
XR members can be seen running to the streets and going as far as breaking fingers in order to have their message heard, but blocking streets is illegal in the UK, and issues a strong police response.
Paolo, a Police Liaison Officer for Extinction Rebellion during the Trafalgar Square protest of 2019
On the day of the operation, cameras first show how a noisy protest was created as a diversion by other ‘rebels’ on one site of the historic monument while others quietly wait being lampposts, walls and even in cafes as they wait for the rallying call.
Some are pretending to be on their phones while other quietly stay away from the Square, pretending to wait for friends.
All rebels will then receive a text message instructing them to take action.
‘There’s people sort of waiting around behind lampposts, behind corners and stuff, one of the participants said.
A group of medics join Extinction Rebellion’s protest in London in 2019. The documentary sheds light on how the organisation operated
‘It’s amazing how it can look like there’s nothing there and then suddenly, everyone’s there,’ she goes on.
Finally, the much awaited text message comes in: ‘REBELS, Hour Zero is here!!!’
In an instant, people can be seen rushing to the street, some pushing some scaffolding until they reach a pedestrian crossing and stopping there, blocking cars from going any further.
A XR protester is carried away by police officers during a demonstration. The Met Police reported that the protests cost £24m to police and led to 1,828 arrests, with 165 people charged with offences
An areal look at the Extinction Rebellion protest at Trafalgar Square wich lasted several days in October 2019
Onlookers that did not seem to be linked to Extinction Rebellion in any way reveal themselves as
Police on the scene are quick to respond and immediately try to keep ‘rebels’ from climbing onto the scaffolding. Some rebels stop, others persist while a member starts their rallying call: ‘Extinction,’ others then responds enthusiastically: ‘Rebellion.’
Trafalgar Square is instantly blocked, with hundreds of people descending in the street, sporting XR banners and flags.
The most extreme of activists go as far as chaining themselves to cars to keep police forces from removing them.
‘I’m doing this because I accept the reality of a climate breakdown and what that means,’ a man locked to a car and laying on the floor says.
He’s holding onto a picture of two children and stars sobbing as around him, police forces struggle to get a hold of all participants.
Extinction Rebellion October 2019 protest
The Extinction Rebellion protests of October 2019 lasted ten days and saw several groups of activists taking actions in different parts of London, including Westminster and Trafalgar Square.
Targeted sites also includi
The Met Police reported that the protests cost £24m to police and led to 1,828 arrests, with 165 people charged with offences.
Police forces issued a London-wide ban on 14 October under Section 14 of the Public Order Act.
The ban was ignored by protester and subsequently lifted. It was found unlawful by the High Court in early November.
‘We got Trafalgar Square, we f****** done it,’ one activist celebrates.
‘This is brilliant, TF is one of the most disruptive sites […] I’m b***** impressed,’ he goes on. ‘These people were amazing.’
The messaging and media team of the organisation have set up shops in a nearby cafe. We then learned that the operation was neatly time so that national media could report on the protest during the 1pm news.
On the day of the protest, Met police confirmed on Twitter that they had made 212 arrests following the Trafalgar Square stint.
In another clip, we see what happens when a group of police forces raid an Extinction Rebellion local in a disuses courtroom in Lambeth, conducting arrests and seizing the barricades the group uses to block streets.
XR participants are alerted to the stint by an organisation-wide message reading: ‘Emergency, we are being turfed out, all hands on deck.’
‘The police are being very intimidating to anyone who’s tried to take anything in or out of the building an onlooker says.
During the incident, ten rebels have already been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance.
Protesters wave flags and banners during the Trafalgar Protest in 2019. The organisation planned street blockages and stunts over the last year as a way to compel governments to take more action against global warming and to raise awareness
A group of several activists that are in the building escape through large windows at the back why police breaks down the main door as passers-by and members of XR look on.
Inside, the activists are trying to take out expensive pieces of tech such as solar panels so that the police cannot confiscate it, while also creating an obstacle course to slow officers down.
In a matter of seconds, the rebels inside have managed to take out a few solar panels without being detected by the police who are still making their way into the building.
Extinction Rebellion: The Inside Story airs on Sunday on Channel 5 at 9pm.