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Boris Johnson PRAISES Extinction Rebellion protests - despite calling them 'smug'; More than 1,000 people have been arrested over the protests in London - but Boris Johnson said "I cannot find it in my heart to condemn them".

Byline: Nicola Bartlett

Boris Johnson has praised the Extinction Rebellion climate protest in an unexpected move - despite calling the activists "smug".

It came as the group suggested temporarily ending disruptive tactics to focus on political negotiations as they enter the eighth day of campaigning.

A spokesman for the environmental campaign said there would be no escalation of activity on Bank Holiday Monday, but warned that the disruption could get "much worse" if politicians were not open to their negotiation requests.

So far 1,065 people have been arrested while at least 40 have been charged in connection with the protests.

Former London Mayor Boris Johnson used his weekly newspaper column to praise the protesters for taking action.

"I cannot find it in my heart -- no matter how smug, irritating and disruptive they may be -- to condemn these protesters today," he wrote.

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"They are right to draw attention to the loss of habitat, and the extinction of species. They are also right to sound the alarm about all manner of man-made pollution, including CO2."

Mr Johnson's own record on the environment is patchy.

His attempts to bring in an eco friendly bus were dismissed as an expensive vanity project with a crucial design flaw in the air cooling system which left passengers sweltering.

He also scrapped extending the congestion charge zone to the west of London, which opponents said was due to the large number of Tory voters in that part of the capital.

Now his sympathy for Extinction Rebellion is likely to be seen as growing influence of his new girlfriend, the environmental campaigner Carrie Symonds.

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Activists have stopped traffic in a series of demonstrations across London since Monday with actions including fixing a boat at the junction of Oxford Street and Regent Street, occupying Waterloo Bridge and disrupting the Docklands Light Railway by climbing on a train.

A spokesman said there would be no escalation of activity on Bank Holiday Monday, but warned that the disruption could get "much worse" if politicians were not open to their negotiation requests.

The group will no longer hold a picnic on the Westway by Edgware Road Underground station, which would have stopped traffic on the busy A-road on the last day of the long Easter weekend.

At Marble Arch, the only police-sanctioned protest space, activists will meet to "vision what's going to happen in the coming week", an Extinction Rebellion member said, as she introduced Swedish activist Greta Thunberg to the stage.

The 16-year-old was met with cheers as she walked on stage and told a crowd of hundreds that humanity was at a crossroads.

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On Sunday, in what the group later said was an internal memo intended to garner feedback from members, Farhana Yamin, the group's political circle co-ordinator, said the group would shift tactics to "focus on political demands".

She added: "Being able to 'pause' a rebellion shows that we are organised and a long-term political force to be reckoned with."

The proposal suggests negotiating with the mayor of London,Sadiq Khan, and Metropolitan Police, to agree that they be allowed to continue their protests at one site in London.

Members would commit to not disrupting other areas in exchange for Mr Khan speeding up the implementation of the Declaration of Climate and Ecological Emergency, and considering setting up a London Citizens' Assembly.

They will also set up a political taskforce to take forward public negotiations with the Government, warning that they are prepared to scale up action depending on how much progress is made.

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Credit: SWNS

An Extinction Rebellion climate activist in a hammock above Parliament Square today

Credit: PA

"I cannot find it in my heart to condemn them"

Credit: Chris J Ratcliffe

His new girlfriend is the environmental campaigner Carrie Symonds (centre)

Credit: PA

Olympic gold medallist Etienne Stott being arrested by police at the Extinction Rebellion demonstration
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Title Annotation:News,Politics
Publication:Daily Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 22, 2019
Words:700
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