Police have issued a statement after Extinction Rebellion (XR) revealed plans to block traffic on a Bristol city centre route for four days.
The environmental activists plan to protest at Prince Street Bridge – normally open to southbound traffic – from Friday to Monday (August 28 to 31).
An Avon and Somerset police spokesman said: “We’re aware of plans for protest activity to take place in Bristol over the forthcoming bank holiday weekend and officers are liaising with the organisers to fully understand their intentions.
“Public safety must always be a top priority and we’re stressing to organisers the vital importance of adhering to all the legislation and restrictions in place to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
XR has chosen Bristol as its location to kick off similar events around the country.
The pressure group told Bristol Live: “The city’s actions start on Friday 28th with an attention-grabbing event that has been chosen to kick off actions around the country.
“The four days of Covid-safe activities will then be focused on the harbourfront, stretching from the Arnolfini, across Prince Street Bridge to the M-Shed.
“Prince Street Bridge is planned to be closed to vehicle traffic, while remaining open to pedestrians and cyclists, and to harbour traffic as necessary.
“The centre-piece of the action will be a giant ‘elephant in a room’, representing the issues that those in power need to urgently address to save the planet.”
Posters for the event can be seen at the M32’s Junction 3, displaying an image of an elephant above the words “join the rebellion”, in large block capitals.
They also advertise protests at Cardiff from September 1 to 5, and outside Parliament in London, “from September 6”.
In July last year, hundreds of XR activists blocked city Bristol city centre traffic with a pink boat and turned Castle Park into a campsite.
XR Bristol coordinator Pete Hughes said: “We’re taking action now, in a Covid-safe way, to push the issue up to the top of our local and national agenda.
“During the pandemic the government has been prepared to step up to a war footing in an unprecedented way, with economic commitments that were supported by selfless public and community action.
“We need the same scale and urgency of government action for the global climate and ecological crisis, which no vaccine is going to be able to fix. But UK politics based on four-year parliamentary terms just isn’t making the commitment.
“That’s why we’re having to take action now, to drive forward the solutions needed.”
XR says there will be on-site sanitation stations, face masks available and floor markings for safe distancing.
“Members of the public are asked to come prepared with their own face masks and hand sanitiser if possible, and to observe 2m social distancing,” it added.
XR also plans to hold a demonstration at 12pm on Saturday, which it says will see hundreds march to Bristol Airport from nearby Felton Common in a “mourning procession”.
“The protest will be socially distanced, single file, silent, and organised around the theme of death,” says XR.
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“Coordinated by the local community, environmental, and Extinction Rebellion groups, the event promises a large turn out with some spectacle to bring attention to the issue.”
XR has issued the following demands to the UK Government:
- A serious plan to deal with the UK’s fair share of emissions and to halt critical rises in global temperatures
- Our entire carbon footprint be taken into account – in the UK and overseas
- The active conservation and restoration of nature here and overseas, recognising the damage we cause through the goods we import
- Those in power not to depend on future technologies to save the day; technologies that are used as an excuse for us to carry on polluting
- Ordinary people to have a real say on the right way forward in a Citizens’ Assembly with bite.
Bristol City Council and Avon & Somerset Constabulary have been approached for more details on the upcoming Bristol protest.