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Greenpeace Protesters Spend Night on Parliament Roof

Greenpeace protesters plan to remain on roof of Westminster Hall for first day of parliament after chilly night under stars

by Helen Pidd and agencies

Thirty-one Greenpeace activists remained on the roof of the Palace of Westminster this morning protesting about climate change, the environmental group said.

Campaigners wave a flag to call for action against the climate change, from the roof of the Houses of the Parliament as night falls in central London, with Big Ben's clock face in background, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009. Several dozen environmental activists scaled Britain's Parliament building Sunday to draw attention to climate change. Greenpeace said its members were atop the building with yellow banners reading 'Change the politics, save the climate.'(AP Photo/Akira Suemori) Another 23 protesters have been arrested, three of whom remained in custody, according to a Metropolitan police spokesman. Greenpeace said there had been 24 arrests in total.

The demonstrators climbed on to the roof, ramparts and a turret on top of Westminster Hall yesterday, unfurling yellow banners that read: "Change the politics, save the climate". They said there was little resistance from police when they moved quickly to prop ladders against the wall and climb up.

The activists hope to greet politicians as they arrive for the start of parliament this morning with a 12-point manifesto calling for zero carbon emissions by 2030, a stop to airport expansion, more wind power and new pollution taxes.

After almost five hours on the roof last night, some of the protesters climbed down one by one using a ladder and safety harness, and were arrested for trespassing on a "protected site". The remainder climbed into bivvy bags in an attempt to keep warm through the night, Greenpeace UK said on its Twitter feed.

Anna Jones, 28, a full-time Greenpeace activist from Headingley, Leeds, said from the roof this morning: "We can't stress enough how important this is. The clock is ticking - scientists are telling us we have just a few years left to act to save the planet.

"Now is the time to start putting policies in place to make sure we are on the right trajectory to peak our emissions and bring them down. But instead we have a government that is prepared to lock us into high carbon projects like the third runway at Heathrow."

She said direct action was necessary and effective. "Climate change is the biggest challenge we are facing. It takes action like this to make the politicians wake up. They are letting us down and letting down citizens around the world."

Jones said there had been very little police presence as activists scaled the building. The protesters had managed to get some sleep on the roof overnight and had spotted shooting stars.

"We're planning to stay here for the day. It's quite cold up here but we have had hot meals and are cosy huddled up under one of the big banners," she said.

Another protester on the roof, Brikesh Singh, 29, from Bangalore, India, said: "This building is considered as the mother of all parliaments and the UK is one of the leading developed countries. It has to take leadership in solving the climate crisis so that developing countries can follow its lead."

Why Am I Here? Greenpeace Activists Offer Their Message 
 

John Sauven, the Greenpeace executive director, said: "We've got to raise the temperature of the debate because we are really running out of time. We are at a minute to midnight and there is so little time left but so much to do.

"Parliament is opening and there is an election looming so this is a golden opportunity for the political parties to really think about the future and what future generations will face."

The ease with which protesters gained access to the site raised concerns over security. The Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker said: "There is understandable concern about the need to move faster and more effectively to tackle climate change, and Greenpeace are right to seek to protest in a peaceful way. But I would have preferred it if they had not done it by breaching the House of Parliament.

"It shows that things are not as they should be in security terms. The House authorities really need to sort this out."

A spokeswoman from the Department for Energy and Climate Change said: "Public demonstration to highlight the need for action on climate change by all within society is welcome, but it must be conducted in a way that respects the rule of law.

"We have a comprehensive plan to transform our economy and society, by investing in green jobs, cleaning up our energy supplies and making our homes energy efficient. This week we host vital talks to accelerate the development of clean coal and to progress the Copenhagen deal. It's our domestic record that has given us the credibility we need to press hard for an ambitious global climate deal."

A House of Commons spokeswoman said: "We can confirm that 45 protesters climbed up the wall adjacent to the Cromwell Green building. Police have the situation contained. At no time did the protesters have any access to the building, nor did they seek it."

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