By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter, and Toby Porter
Campaigners from climate change activists Extinction Rebellion have set up camp in a park while they take part in planned demonstrations in London.
The group pitched camp in Brockwell Park, Brixton at the start of 10 days of demonstrations to “peacefully disrupt the UK Parliament in London” from Tuesday.
They were urging MPs to back the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill and to “prepare for crisis with a National Citizens’ Assembly”.
The park, where more than 30 tents have been erected, will be used as a base for the group while the London protests take place.
At least three police vans were parked up near the campsite on Wednesday morning, while XR members meditated in a circle.
But the encampment was opposed by locals as the activists do not have permission to camp in the park.
The Friends of Brockwell Park (FOBP) was given only two days’ notice – and opposed the camp after XR used the park for a festival a year ago and then promised it would not return.
FOBP members fear a large concentration of people for two weeks during the Covid-19 crisis, putting them and members of the public “at serious risk”. FOBP also fears none of the XR activists are insured.
They say it will prevent enjoyment of that section of the park for two weeks by members of the public in one of its most ecologically sensitive parts.
FOBP chairman Peter Bradley said: “For XR to impose this on Brockwell Park without any public consultation, because it thinks it can get away with it, does not make it right.”
He asked XR to honour their commitment, made last year, to stay away and instead use private land.
A spokesman for Lambeth council said it had told XR that “this incursion” is a “breach of council bye-laws and is of real concern, considering the risk of transmission of Covid-19”.
He added: “Lambeth’s parks are a vital asset for the community in our borough.
“To occupy it in this way, at a time when so many residents rely on it for access to open green space due to Covid-19 restrictions, is both unfair and risky.
“It is for that reason that the council has made clear that Extinction Rebellion’s camp is not authorised.
“While they currently occupy Brockwell Park without authorisation, the council calls on Extinction Rebellion to do what Lambeth residents manage to do perfectly well: respect our green spaces, comply with the byelaws and avoid the risk of transmission of Covid-19 in our borough.”
The activists have promised to respect the park and the people who use it.
An XR spokeswoman said it accepted the group does “not have permission to camp at Brockwell Park” but campaigners “have worked as hard as possible to minimise the disruption caused to residents”.
She added: “While we are here we will respect both the park and those who use this beautiful space.
“We will ensure there is no alcohol, illegal drugs or amplified music and that there will be absolutely no rubbish left.
“We would, if possible, provide portable toilets so that we do not put the park facilities under further pressure.
“The actions we take now will impact on our future, and the future of those yet born. We ask that you bear with us, come and talk to us, we are all in this together.”
Pictured top: The protesters have set up camp in Brockwell Park
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