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Hundreds of arrests as climate change protesters block streets around world

WATCH: Extinction Rebellion protesters bring parts of London to standstill

Thousands of climate activists took to the streets of cities around the world on Monday, launching two weeks of peaceful civil disobedience to demand immediate action to cut carbon emissions and avert an ecological disaster.

In London, police arrested 135 activists from the Extinction Rebellion group as they blocked bridges and roads in the city center, and glued themselves to cars, while protesters in Berlin halted traffic at the Victory Column roundabout.

READ MORE: Climate activists use firetruck bought on eBay to spray U.K. ministry with fake blood

Dutch police stepped in to arrest more than 100 climate change activists blocking a street in front of the country’s national museum and there were similar protests in Austria, Spain, New Zealand and Australia.

Extinction Rebellion protesters march through central Dublin
Extinction Rebellion protesters march through central Dublin

“SORRY that we blocked the road, but this is an emergency,” declared placards held by activists in Amsterdam.

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The protests are part of an international two-week campaign coordinated by Extinction Rebellion, a campaign group that rose to prominence in April when it disrupted traffic in central London for 11 days.

“The Red Brigade” activists take part in the Extinction Rebellion protest in London, Britain October 7, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
“The Red Brigade” activists take part in the Extinction Rebellion protest in London, Britain October 7, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

They are the latest in a string of demonstrations against climate change. Last month, millions of young people flooded onto the streets of cities around the world, inspired to take action by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

READ MORE: Climate change activists block bridges, cause traffic chaos across Canada

Extinction Rebellion says it expects peaceful protests over the next two weeks in more than 60 cities from New Delhi to New York, to call on governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025 and halt a loss of biodiversity.

Couple weds amid Extinction Rebellion protests in London
Couple weds amid Extinction Rebellion protests in London

Banging drums and chanting, protesters in London took over Trafalgar Square and marched down the Mall, the avenue that leads to Buckingham Palace, carrying banners with slogans such as “Climate change denies our children a future unless we act now.”

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“We’re here because the government is not doing enough on the climate emergency,” protester Lizzy Mansfield said in London. “We only get one planet and so we’re here to try and defend it.”

Police officers detain an activist at Lambeth Bridge during the Extinction Rebellion protest in London, Britain October 7, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Police officers detain an activist at Lambeth Bridge during the Extinction Rebellion protest in London, Britain October 7, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Police chiefs said last week they would mobilize thousands of officers to handle the protests in London and anyone who broke the law, even as part of non-violent civil disobedience, would be arrested.

Mass arrests in London as Extinction Rebellion kicks off global climate action
Mass arrests in London as Extinction Rebellion kicks off global climate action

On Saturday, officers used a battering ram to enter a building in south London where activists had been storing materials to use during the protests. Eight people were arrested during the raid.

‘OUT OF TIME’

Defying almost freezing temperatures in Berlin, activists singing “Solid as a rock, rooted as a tree” gathered at dawn at the Victory Column roundabout near Berlin’s Tiergarten park.

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At sunrise, some were sleeping in insulated bags in the middle of the roundabout as police on motorbikes drove by. No arrests were made and the protest remained peaceful.

Police blocked the five avenues that converge on the roundabout to stop cars and buses reaching the demonstration, as it would have resulted in traffic chaos during rush hour.

Extinction Rebellion protesters dance, sing, do yoga on London’s Westminster Bridge
Extinction Rebellion protesters dance, sing, do yoga on London’s Westminster Bridge

By midday, the protest had swelled to 4,000 people, a policeman said, and a second main roundabout was also blocked by activists sitting in the middle of the road.

The rally came as German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended climate protection measures her government is due to approve on Wednesday that have been condemned by critics as unambitious.

In Amsterdam, police were lining up empty city buses to take the arrested demonstrators away as they tried to clear a major thoroughfare in the afternoon.

Climate activists attend an Extinction Rebellion protest at Potsdamer Platz square in Berlin, Germany, October 7, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
Climate activists attend an Extinction Rebellion protest at Potsdamer Platz square in Berlin, Germany, October 7, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

“The climate crisis is not being taken seriously enough by politics, and also not by the companies. That’s why I joined,” said one demonstrator, who gave his name as Christiaan.

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Meanwhile activists in London, some wearing yellow safety helmets with “Rebel at Work” painted on the side, glued or chained themselves to cars parked in the middle of roads or to street lamps, making it hard for police officers to detain them.

“We are out of time, there is none left, we have to act now,” said a protester called Benjamin.