Climate activists to 'disrupt business as usual' in DC, London

People hold up signs as a monument was unveiled at the site of Okjokull, Iceland's first glacier lost to climate change. (Jeremie Richard, AFP)
People hold up signs as a monument was unveiled at the site of Okjokull, Iceland's first glacier lost to climate change. (Jeremie Richard, AFP)

Environmental groups, including Extinction Rebellion, said on Wednesday that they would shut down traffic in Washington, DC, on September 23 and bring daily life to a standstill to demand that political leaders tackle climate change.

The announcement mirrors disruptive aspirations in London for later this week.

READ | SA govt lacking 'vision and urgency' on the climate crisis - Greenpeace

The roughly 15 United States groups planning the protest include traditional environmental groups like 350 DC and Friends of the Earth Action, as well as groups that focus on other issues, such as Black Lives Matter and Code Pink, a women-led group promoting peace and human rights.

Kaela Bamberger, an activist aligned with Extinction Rebellion DC, said the coalition plans to ratchet up pressure on US policymakers by shutting down traffic at major intersections.

She said rallies, marches and petitions have simply not worked.

"This is definitely a next-level action. The urgency of climate change warrants such an attempt to disrupt business as usual," Bamberger said.

Global climate strike

The activists aim to "make it impossible for people with decision-making power to go about their daily lives as if we are not in the climate emergency", she added.

Alaina Gertz, a spokesperson for the DC Metropolitan Police Department, said it was aware of the planned environmental protests and that it is "equipped to handle any-sized First Amendment demonstration".

The events are timed to draw attention to a global climate strike on September 20 and the United Nations climate summit in New York City on September 23.

Employees of large US companies are also participating in the strike. About 1 000 Amazon workers will walk out that day, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice have said.

Meanwhile, Heathrow Pause, a splinter group of Extinction Rebellion in the UK, plans to disrupt London's Heathrow airport on Friday by flying drones within a restricted zone at no higher than head level and with one hour's notice given to airport authorities.

The group plans to fly toy drones from 02:00 GMT on Friday within a 5km area around the airport but outside flight paths.

The airport has said the plan is illegal and counterproductive but that it has plans to make sure it can continue to operate.

British police said they were confident an attempt by climate change activists to disrupt would not lead to a repeat of the chaos at Gatwick last December.

Drone sightings at Gatwick, Britain's second-busiest airport, led to about 1 000 flight cancellations and disrupted the travel plans of 140 000 passengers in the run-up to Christmas.

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