Extinction Rebellion activist who climbed Big Ben dubbed ‘brave rebel’ by group spokesman

By Adam Rivers
October 23 2019, 17.05

An Extinction Rebellion activist who climbed Big Ben dressed as Boris Johnson has been praised as ‘brave’ by a leading spokesperson for the group.

On Friday, tree surgeon Ben Atkinson, 43, climbed the scaffolding which surrounds the Queen Elizabeth Tower without a harness and stayed there for nearly three hours before he was brought down by police.

Mr Atkinson, who donned a Boris Johnson style blonde wig, unfurled a banner bearing the Extinction Rebellion logo and the words ‘Citizens Assembly’ in reference to one of the group’s ‘three demands’.

Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Rupert Read, 53, said: “I think this brave rebel who’s climbing Big Ben right now is doing something which is quite funny, and I think it’s drawing attention to the cause, which is an absolutely vital cause if we’re gonna have a future in a way which could be helpful.

“I think that it’s clear that overall the vast majority of Extinction Rebellion actions have contributed towards changing the climate of public opinion in this country such that, for the first time, we’re actually starting to take the climate and ecological emergency seriously.”

The stunt capped the end of almost two weeks of protests in the capital by the climate activist group which is calling upon the British government to step up in its efforts on tackling climate change.

Extinction Rebellion activists climbed on to trains at Stratford, Canning Town and Shadwell during the Thursday morning rush-hour, bringing the Jubilee Line and DLR to a standstill.

Angry commuters dragged the protestors off the tube at Canning Town, sparking violent scenes.

Mr Read accepted that this stunt may have backfired. 

“We are a young organisation that cannot always make things happen in just the way they should happen just yet,” he said.

“So, for that reason I regret what happened, I don’t think it showed us at our best, despite our best intentions.”

But he denied that the response of commuters at Canning Town indicated a lack of public sympathy with Extinction Rebellion’s message.

“Opinion polls show quite clearly that public opinion has moved quite decisively in favour of more serious action on these issues since we started our activities and let’s hope we now actually start to get some action otherwise the future for all of us will be grim,” he said.

“I think the really crucial point here is that this is an emergency and we’ve tried absolutely everything else.”

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