Extinction Rebellion’s rise and influence has been extraordinary, galvanising young and old in many cities across the world. Last October, UK journalist and activist George Monbiot introduced the group in the national press, a homegrown movement “devoted to disruptive, non-violent disobedience in protest against ecological collapse”.
The hope was to turn a national uprising into an international one by March. In fewer than 12 months, Extinction Rebellion has become the fastest-growing environmental organisation in the world.
Now there are an estimated 485 Extinction Rebellion affiliates across the globe and, over the next fortnight, they are promising to shut down 60 cities, including London, New York, Buenos Aires, Sydney, Cape Town and Mumbai.
As Extinction Rebellion activists kicked off a fortnight of global civil disobedience on Monday October 7th, demanding governments take urgent action on climate change, dozens of protesters were arrested in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
London’s Metropolitan Police said that by 5pm on Monday they had arrested 217 climate activists on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. Last week the police said they would mobilise thousands of officers to handle the planned protests and that anyone who broke the law, even as part of non-violent civil disobedience, would be arrested.
The protests are expected to bring 10,000 people to the British capital as part of what Extinction Rebellion activists call an "international rebellion", with similar actions taking place in Australia, the Netherlands and elsewhere.
On Monday, the activists blocked a bridge and several roads in London's government district of Westminster. A small group locked themselves to a mock nuclear missile outside the Ministry of Defence, calling on the government to redirect the funds spent on Britain's Trident nuclear submarines towards climate action. Groups carried banners with slogans such as ‘Climate change denies our children a future unless we act now’.
In Dublin, Ireland’s capital, traffic and businesses in the city centre can expect to be disrupted throughout the week. The level of disruption is unclear but activities began on Monday with a parade starting at the Dáil (Irish parliament building).
Public transport operators said they would monitor the situation and work with gardaí (Irish police) and authorities to minimise disruption.
Dozens of protesters were arrested across Australia and New Zealand as activists began demonstrations with a sit-in on a busy inner road in Sydney, which police ended by dragging away demonstrators; 30 people were later charged.
A small group of activists also locked themselves to a bridge in Brisbane, where police said they arrested and charged seven people.
Meanwhile, demonstrators shut down part of Wellington, New Zealand's capital, by chaining themselves to a bright pink car. Police said 30 people were arrested later that day but none were charged.
This week, thousands are expected to join other events in Australia, including a bee die-off enactment, a nude parade and a funeral procession for the planet.
"We have tried petitions, lobbying and marches and now time is running out," Australian activist Jane Morton said. "We have no choice but to rebel until our government declares a climate and ecological emergency and takes the action that is required to save us."
In Amsterdam, hundreds of climate change activists chanting "Rebellion!" blocked traffic in the town centre on Monday morning, defying a ban by police, who said they would make arrests to prevent them from disrupting commuters.
Protestors gathered on a main traffic artery through the city in front of the national Rijksmuseum with banners that read, ‘Stop talking, start acting’ and ‘Tell the truth’.
In response, police began forcibly removing demonstrators, arresting 50 after they defied orders to move their demonstration to a nearby square.
Traffic around the city centre was disrupted as about 900 protesters from Extinction Rebellion gathered on Stadhouderskade in front of the Netherlands' national museum to demand more action to tackle climate change.
In Berlin, dozens of activists blocked traffic at a main square on Monday, kicking off a week of protests intended to force the German government to take more drastic measures to protect the environment.
Defying almost freezing temperatures, activists singing "Solid as a rock, rooted as a tree" gathered at dawn at the iconic Victory Column near Berlin's Tiergarten Park, while other activists rode on bicycles across the city to draw attention to their campaign.
On Wednesday October 9th, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government is expected to approve the main details of landmark climate protection measures, although critics have described it as unambitious.
The government are introducing a carbon dioxide price of €10 ($10.96) a tonne for transport and heating in buildings from 2021 and gradually increasing it to €35 euros in 2025.
In Delhi, one of the world's most polluted cities, on a road in the heart of India's capital, dozens of protesters staged another preliminary event on Sunday October 6th, holding up hands covered in red paint and signs such as ‘There is no planet B’.
Extinction Rebellion has scheduled non-violent protests chiefly in Europe, North America and Australia over the next fortnight. Events will also be held in India, Buenos Aires and Cape Town.
The climate movement was established last year in Britain by academics and has become one of the world's fastest-growing environmental movements.
On Sunday, an "opening ceremony" attracted hundreds of people to central London, where plans are in place to shut down key sites, including Westminster and Lambeth Bridges, in addition to protests outside key government departments.
Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Zoe Jones said Marble Arch in central London would be used as a base throughout the two-week protests.
She said, "We're here to pressure the Government into action because we can't wait any longer. The next two weeks will involve marches and family friendly events, there'll be some spicier actions as well and some will be arrestable. We've had 4,000 rebels sign up and say they are willing to be arrested, which is a huge increase on the number arrested in April of 1,000."