European authorities say they arrested more than 250 climate activists Monday as the Extinction Rebellion group kicked off its latest wave of protests, staging a series of demonstrations that one top German official criticized as being partly “dangerous."
The group, which is seeking urgent action against climate change, is trying to block roads in major European cities to draw attention to its demands. In London, officials say they have taken 276 demonstrators into custody, while three have been arrested in Spain for allegedly resisting orders from anti-riot police.
"We all share an interest in climate protection, and the Paris climate targets are our standard in this," Helge Braun, the chief of staff for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, told ZDF television. "If you demonstrate against or for that, that is OK.
“But if you announce dangerous interventions in road traffic or things like this, of course that is just not on,” he added. He also dismissed the protesters’ idea of declaring a "climate emergency," saying that the German constitution doesn't provide for such a thing and it doesn't translate into "concrete action."
In Berlin, around 1,000 people blocked the Grosser Stern, a traffic circle in the middle of the German capital's Tiergarten park dominated by the landmark Victory Column. That protest began before dawn.
At lunchtime on Monday, another 300 people blocked Berlin's central Potsdamer Platz, placing couches, tables, chairs and flowerpots on the road. Police said the protests were peaceful.
In London, demonstrators playing steel drums marched as they kicked off two weeks of activities designed to disrupt the city.
“In the UK, we will peacefully shut down all roads into Westminster in Central London and non-violently disrupt the government until our leaders agree to TAKE EMERGENCY ACTION NOW,” the group says on its website. “Other non-violent actions will target corporations, ministries and infrastructure that maintain our toxic system.”
For months, Extinction Rebellion has been demanding that the British Parliament “act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.” They also have pushed lawmakers there to “create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.”
London police say they arrested members of the group as they blocked Victoria Embankment, outside the Ministry of Defense.
Among those arrested was 81-year-old Sarah Lasenby, a retired social worker from Oxford.
"It is imperative the government should take serious actions and put pressure on other states and global powers to radically reduce the use of fossil fuels," she told the Associated Press.
In Amsterdam, hundreds of demonstrators blocked a major road outside the Rijksmuseum, one of the city's most popular tourist attractions, and set up tents. The protest went ahead despite a city ban on activists gathering on the road and the protesters ignored police calls for them to move to a nearby square.
In Spain, a few dozen activists briefly chained themselves to each other and to an elevated road over a major artery in Madrid, snarling traffic during the morning rush hour. The National Police said three were arrested for resisting orders by anti-riot officers.
A few hundred other protesters camped out in 40 tents at the gates of Spain's Ministry of Ecological Transition.
And around 1,000 protesters blocked the area around Chatelet in central Paris and vowed to stay at least the night in the makeshift camp they had pitched. Some were seated, some chained to a barrel.
Fox News’ Thairy Lantigua and the Associated Press contributed to this report.