London cracks down on climate change activists

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday called them a “nuisance” and applauded his Interior Minister Priti Patel promoting “new powers to put them in jail, where they should be.”

His government claims to want to lead carbon reduction to limit global warming at the summit, but follows the lead of the conservative British press, increasingly hostile to activists, whom it calls “ecomafia” and “ambientaidiotas”.

Its militants are accused of risking lives with their tactics, which include sticking to the asphalt and sitting in front of rush hour traffic.

On Monday, televisions showed a desperate driver pleading to be let in so she could follow the ambulance that was taking her mother to the hospital.

“We are devastated by this. We did not go out to prevent the passage of ambulances”said Tim Speers, 36, a member of Insulate Britain.

Originally from the southwest of England, he is far from the media caricature of a “hippy”, as Johnson called them, with a beard and a wool cap.

Clean-shaven and fast-talking, this former professional poker player claims to have left his old life behind to fight climate change through civil disobedience.

“As soon as they make a meaningful statement that they will get down to business, that they will accomplish their own goals, I will be off the road.”, affirmed and continued: “But I cannot sit back while this government completely fails the citizens it is obligated to protect.”.

The British have a long history of environmental protests, against old infrastructure projects such as a road bypass in the west of England in the 1990s.

One of the activists who then tried to block the construction with a tunnel under the work, Daniel Hooper, known as “Swampy”, reappeared earlier this year in another protest.

He has been tried along with other environmentalists, including the sons of a millionaire landowner and publisher, for trying to prevent the construction of a high-speed rail line. The group spent days entrenched in extremely narrow tunnels they secretly dug near Euston train station in central London.

On Monday, Speers demonstrated outside the courts as more than 100 members of the group received court orders against the roadblock.

Its origins are very diverse, from parents with their children, to the elderly or members of the clergy.

Janine Eagling, a 60-year-old retired IT consultant, explained that she joined Insulate Britain out of a need to act urgently.

“The situation is worse than ever. We are broadcasting C02 as if there is no tomorrow, and if we continue like this, there will literally be no tomorrow.”, he agreed.

Assuring that he would not tolerate “eco-warriors, who trample our way of life and deplete police resources,” Patel announced on Tuesday new measures to confront these groups.

“Shooting the messenger cannot destroy the message: our country faces the greatest risk in history and our government is failing us.”Insulate Britain, which advocates for all British homes to be environmentally efficient, defended itself.

Glasgow, with a planned concentration of between 50,000 and 100,000 people during the summit, could be the scene of a new confrontation.

Scotland’s police, which will deploy some 10,000 officers a day for two weeks, announced that it will facilitate peaceful demonstrations and allow “illegal protests to some extent”. But he warned that he would take action “when the protest begins to affect the ability of the conference to function.”

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