Protesters disrupt London travel during peak rush hour

By Jessie Yeung, CNN

(CNN) -- Fights broke out on London's subway on Thursday morning, as commuters clashed with climate activists who tried to disrupt travel during peak rush hour.

Activists from the global environmental movement Extinction Rebellion held demonstrations across London's Tube network Thursday morning. Several protesters climbed on top of train cars in different stations on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) train line, and hung a black banner above the train that read "Business as usual = Death."

Protesters also glued themselves to the tops and sides of trains, according to a statement from Extinction Rebellion.

With trains halted at the station, angry commuters soon took action into their own hands. Videos on social media show a large crowd shouting at a protester on top of a train, and throwing objects at him. They then grabbed his ankles and dragged him off the train roof, seeming to surge forward into a physical altercation before station staff intervened.

Four people have been arrested so far due to the "obstruction incidents at Stratford and Canning Town," according to the British Transport Police (BPT).

The BPT added that they were still at Shadwell Station, where "specialist teams are working to remove four other protesters."

"I strongly condemn the Extinction Rebellion protesters who have targeted the London Underground and DLR this morning," said London Mayor Sadiq Khan in a statement.

"This illegal action is extremely dangerous, counterproductive and is causing unacceptable disruption to Londoners who use public transport to get to work. It is also an unfair burden on our already overstretched police officers."

Khan also urged the demonstrators to "protest peacefully and within the boundaries of the law."

In its statement Thursday morning after the fights broke out, Extinction Rebellion said the protesters had understood that violence "was a possibility," but that they were willing to go to prison for their cause.

"The actions are intended to bring economic disruption to the capital as part of the ongoing campaign to convince the government to take meaningful action on the climate and ecological emergency," the statement said.

The group added that it had targeted the central London subway lines because it would "have a severe impact upon business within the capital."

The DLR line was partially suspended earlier and has now resumed operations with severe delays. The Jubilee line, meanwhile, is experiencing minor delays due to "a customer incident," according to the Transport for London site. All other lines are operating as usual, but are wary of further scuffles -- the Metropolitan Line posted on Twitter asking commuters not to attack the protesters or "resort to violence."

Canning Town Station was closed down during the scuffles, but has since been reopened.

Just this week, London became the first city to prohibit Extinction Rebellion from staging protests. Police cleared activists from makeshift camps in Trafalgar Square and other sites in London, where Extinction Rebellion has congregated since its "International Rebellion" protest began last week.

London's Metropolitan Police said the crackdown was intended to prevent "ongoing serious disruption to the community."

Since Extinction Rebellion launched a year ago, the decentralized organization has attracted thousands of protesters to participate in nonviolent civil disobedience aimed at forcing government action on ecological breakdown.

Though they have helped transform the public debate surrounding the climate crisis, they have also been criticized for their tactics. In previous demonstrations, they have sprayed 1,800 liters of fake blood at Britain's finance ministry, poured fake blood over the famous Charging Bull statue on New York's Wall Street, and glued themselves to the entrance of a power company's offices in the Netherlands.

In a report released by center-right think tank Policy Exchange, a former head of counter-terrorism for Scotland Yard warned that Extinction Rebellion should be treated as an extremist anarchist group and urged police to be more proactive in responding to their protests.

Extinction Rebellion decried the London ban as "erosion of democracy," and called for greater attention to the climate crisis as hand. The day after the ban was announced, the movement's co-founder, Gail Bradbrook, climbed atop the entrance of the UK Department of Transport while other activists glued themselves to the building below. Bradbrook was arrested shortly afterwards.

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