Boris Johnson urges police to use 'full force of law' as Extinction Rebellion targets Westminster
Boris Johnson has called on the Metropolitan Police to use the "full force of the law" against environmental protestors Extinction Rebellion.
The campaign group has promised two weeks of non-violent protests in Westminster and around the world in a bid to highlight what it sees as government inaction on climate change.
They have already vowed to blockade "every single road" into Westminster as part of a global push to highlight the issue.
Downing Street on Monday said it backed the right to "peaceful protest" - but urged London's police force to take a hardline on "unlawful" action.
“It is essential that people can continue to go about their business, get to and from work, visit family and have access to vital services,” the Prime Minister's official spokesperson said.
“But the right to peaceful protest does not extend to unlawful activity.
"The Government expects the police to take a firm stance against protesters who significantly disrupt the lives of others and to use the full force of the law.”
Extinction Rebellion is calling on ministers to declare "a climate and ecological emergency", and wants MPs to sign up to a bill committing to wipe out carbon emissions completely by 2025.
They are also calling for a 'Citizen's Assembly' to be set up to oversee the switch to zero-carbon.
More than 20 people have been arrested in London in connection with the protests, the Metropolitan Police said on Monday.
Politicians have so far given a mixed reaction to the group's demands, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps this week warning that Extinction Rebellion's plans to shut down Westminster risked "turning people against" their cause.
He told the Telegraph: "Disrupting ordinary workers from getting to work is unlikely to win over hearts and minds and will do damage to the economy and people's livelihoods."
Meanwhile a spokesperson for London mayor Sadiq Khan said that while he "totally agrees" with the need to pile pressure on ministers over climate change, he will not support illegal action which causes major disruption to Londoners or risks public safety.
The spokesperson added: "Such action is counter-productive to this crucial cause, and puts further pressure on our already over-stretched police force who need to be focused on tackling violent crime."
But Green Party MP Caroline Lucas - who is backing the protestors - said while they would "cause some disruption", it would be "nothing compared to the chaos" of climate change.