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Climate change activists defy police ban to keep London protests going

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Demonstrators gather in London's Trafalgar Square after police banned Extinction Rebellion protests on October 15, 2019. Extinction Rebellion

London — Climate change activists staged fresh protests in London on Tuesday after police banned them from the city Monday evening, evicting them from their main camp in Trafalgar Square and declaring that anyone continuing to protest could face arrest and prosecution. The protests — organized by the group Extinction Rebellion — have entered their second and final week. The activists are demanding political leaders take action on climate change.

Demonstrations continued Tuesday morning in defiance of the ban, however, and organizers said they had "taken the first steps towards a judicial review" of the move by London's Metropolitan Police force. One of the group's co-founders, Gail Bradbrook, climbed onto the entrance of the Department for Transport in London, and there were other protests in Trafalgar Square. Bradbrook was quickly arrested, but the Trafalgar Square demonstration continued, with police surrounding activists carrying signs saying: "Peaceful protest is a human right."

"I commend all of you, now, standing here, possibly breaking the law," Sarah Lunnon, a member of Extinction Rebellion, told the crowd at Trafalgar Square on Tuesday. "You're on the right side of history."

Over 1,400 people have been arrested as part of the Extinction Rebellion protests in London, which have caused major disruptions around the city since they began last Monday. The group has blocked bridges and roads and occupied main squares. They said they expected 30,000 people to participate over the planned two weeks of action.

Climate-change protesters block entrance to London City Airport

The move by police to ban the protests was condemned by some politicians on Tuesday. One Member of Britain's Parliament, Ellie Chowns, was arrested alongside protesters Monday night.

"Last night I was arrested in Trafalgar Square while defending the right to peaceful public protest. That right is central to a functioning democracy. Yesterday, public protest was banned throughout our capital city. This is a completely unjustified and disproportionate measure," Chowns tweeted.

Another Member of Parliament, Molly Scott Cato, tweeted that the ban was "a terrible sight in a democracy."

In a statement released Tuesday, Amnesty International called the ban on the climate protesters, "chilling and unlawful." 

"Removing and prosecuting activists for engaging in non-violent direct action to raise their voice is deeply worrying," Amnesty's head of advocacy and programs, Allan Hogarth, said in a statement. 

In announcing the ban, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the London police, Laurence Taylor, said: "We have made significant progress in managing Extinction Rebellion's activity at sites across central London over this past week. Officers have begun the process of clearing Trafalgar Square and getting things back to normal."

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