Dozens of protestors from Extinction Rebellion have been arrested including a 77-year rabbi, as the group targeted London’s financial district and companies, which the group says are profiteering from the climate crisis.

Early on Monday morning, hundreds of activists began demonstrating by sitting down on a roundabout outside the Bank of England in the City of London. Some of the demonstrators also glued themselves to the Walkie Talkie building, Barclays Bank, Blackrock and BAE systems.

Extinction Rebellion said they were switching the target of their activities to financial institutions that are funding environmental destruction.

“The day of disruption, which will target financial institutions seeks to highlight the far greater disruption faced by those living in the environments systematically being destroyed by UK backed companies,” the group said in a statement.

A recent investigation by the Guardian found that three of the world’s biggest money managers had a combined portfolio of $300 billion in fossil fuels. Blackrock, Vanguard and State Street oversee assets worth more than the entire GDP of China, which are mainly comprised of individuals’ private pensions and investments.

According to the Guardian, Blackrock and Vanguard also opposed motions at fossil fuel companies that would have forced them to take more action on climate change.

City Trader Turned Climate Activist

Andrew Medhurst, one of the protestors and a former city trader, told UK media that the financial industry needed to change which projects it finances to help governments decarbonise our economies.

“We have no more time left in terms of taking action. We haven’t got 12 years. We have to decarbonise our economies, so for the banks to be lending money to fossil fuel companies – it’s just barmy. It doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Emily Grossman, a molecular biologist, told UK media that the City of London has lent billions of pounds to fossil fuel projects just in the last year, even though the British government has publicly committed to reducing the UK’s carbon emissions. 

Just before 3:30pm on Monday, the Metropolitan Police said that over 1,400 people had been arrested in connection with the Extinction Rebellion protests over the last week, of which 76 have been charged with a range of offences including criminal damage, obstructing a highway and failing to comply with section 14 of the Public Order Act.

One of those arrested was Jeffrey Newman, a rabbi from the Finchley Reform Synagogue. After having knelt down on Lombard Street outside the Bank of England, he was carried away by police after he failed to go with them when asked.

As he was being led away, he said: “We are in a period of enormous catastrophic breakdown, and if it takes an arrest to try to find ways of helping to galvanise public opinion then it is certainly worth being arrested.”

He added that Extinction Rebellion was not only about activism but also about rebuilding and “about showing that a society can function better when people collaborate.”

Edward Cowley