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Dublin: 2 °C Friday 15 November, 2019
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Extinction Rebellion activist in custody after climbing London's Big Ben

Tree surgeon Ben Atkinson (43) evaded police for more than three hours after climbing the scaffolding.

An Extinction Rebellion protester who scaled the scaffolding surrounding Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament, Westminster
An Extinction Rebellion protester who scaled the scaffolding surrounding Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament, Westminster
Image: Dominic Lipinski via PA Images

THE EXTINCTION REBELLION activist who scaled Big Ben in London is now in custody after evading police for more than three hours.

Tree surgeon Ben Atkinson (43) climbed the scaffolding surrounding Big Ben dressed as Boris Johnson – complete with a blonde wig, shirt, jacket and tie – at around 3.30pm today.

Atkinson, from Rydal in Cumbria, avoided police who had ascended the structure via the builders’ lift by unclipping his harness and sitting on a girder.

He was eventually detained at around 6.45pm.

Atkinson said he was inspired by Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg.

The Met Police said: “At approximately 6.45pm, the man, aged in his 40s, was arrested under Section 128 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 – trespass on a protected site.

“He has been taken into custody.”

According to the act, the charge carries a maximum sentence of 51 weeks’ imprisonment or an unlimited fine.

Shortly afterwards, the Met Police said conditions imposed on XR protesters, which barred an assembly of more than two people linked to its Autumn Uprising action in the capital, were lifted.

The group has a pending legal challenge against the order, imposed on Tuesday and defied by many XR activists, and the case is expected to be heard at the High Court on Thursday next week.

The force tweeted: “Following review, there is no longer a necessity for the conditions upon the Extinction Rebellion Autumn Uprising assembly; they are no longer in place.”

It comes after XR said it was ending its action today, one day earlier than planned.

It has also emerged Atkinson appeared at City of London Magistrates’ Court this morning for charges relating to him climbing a lamppost at Marble Arch last spring.

But a charge of obstructing a constable and a charge of being a public assembly participant failing to comply with a condition were dropped, according to yoga teacher Katherine Beaumont, an XR member who said she speaks for Atkinson.

She added that he had been demanding to speak to Boris Johnson “wig to wig”.

In a statement on his behalf, Beaumont said: “What is Boris scared of? He must be terrified because he is hiding from a bunch of ‘crusties’, pensioners, normal people with children and loves, lives and jobs, peaceful protesters and non-violent communicators.

“If he represents the people then where is he? Hiding and not representing the country. Hiding from eminent global disaster and failing us all from a position of power.

Atkinson draped two banners from the landmark.

One featured the Extinction Rebellion logo on a rainbow background and the words “No pride on a dead planet”, and the other said “Citizens Assembly”.

After reaching the top, Atkinson posted on Facebook: “Gone and done it… Extinction Rebellion. Here to stay.

“We got the declaration of climate emergency last time. Now perhaps, please Boris, you’re struggling to navigate Brexit let alone work our way out of the sixth mass extinction event.”

He added: “Oh, and thanks Greta. I heard you calling.

Shortly before climbing the building, Atkinson posted a picture of himself in his Boris Johnson costume with the words: “Ready steady breathe deep… go.”

Police closed the entrance to Westminster Tube station that is across the road from Big Ben during Atkinson’s stunt, and asked people to leave the area directly in front of the tower.

It was the latest in a string of stunts staged by XR on the last day of their autumn uprising – despite being barred from protesting in the capital since Monday by the Met Police.

Earlier, the group performed a “red handed” march, where they sprayed hand prints using chalk-based spray paint around Whitehall.

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