City centres across the UK face being brought to a standstill as activists from environmental protest group Extinction Rebellion step up their action over climate emergency.

Mass demonstrations – dubbed Emergency Roadblocks – are expected to bring traffic to a halt in key city centre locations, as they look to force governments to take action. 

Tens of thousands are expected to take to the streets of London today in a bid to “shut down the city” in one of the biggest protests.

Similar action is expected to happen in Scotland including Edinburgh, where cyclists and pedestrians are expected to target the city centre before a gathering at North Bridge as early as tomorrow.

The London protest will target five busy locations in the capital, including Waterloo Bridge and Parliament Square, demonstrators are also being encouraged to camp overnight in Hyde Park, despite warnings that such a move is illegal and could see protesters arrested.

Some activists, described as earth marchers, have been making their way to the city for weeks from various parts of the UK for what is described as an “International Rebellion”.

Similar action is expected to happen in Scotland including Edinburgh, where cyclists and pedestrians are expected to target the city centre before a gathering at North Bridge as early as tomorrow.

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That will include plans for a so-called ‘Critical Mass Bike Ride’ to join what has been dubbed an ‘emergency roadblock’ shortly before the evening rush-hour.  

In London thousands of people will converge on five busy locations in the city, peacefully blocking traffic and creating a “festival” of action including people’s assemblies, performances, talks, workshops and food, campaign group Extinction Rebellion said.

People will take to the streets at Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge, Piccadilly Circus and Parliament Square in a bid to cause disruption and force the Government to act.

In Glasgow, a banner has been dropped over the City Chambers entrance. 

Campaigners said participants would be able to attend training sessions and briefings “to make sure everyone is prepared for the mass civil disobedience to follow”, warning that while the movement is a peaceful one, there is always the possibility of arrest.

Demonstrators are being encouraged to camp overnight in Hyde Park where they can “come together, form relationships, consolidate our plans, and gear up for the days ahead”.

But they have been warned they could be breaking the law by setting up camp, as doing so without permission is an offence under Royal Parks legislation.

A spokeswoman for The Royal Parks said Extinction Rebellion had not asked for permission to begin the protest in the park and that camping is not allowed.

She said: “We never allow camping in the parks for reasons of safety, security, lack of welfare facilities and the impact it has on the park. It also removes public space from other park visitors.

“Those camping in the parks are breaking the law. Enforcement of the park regulations is a matter for the Metropolitan Police.”

Police said their operational response “would be dependent on what if any other issues might be ongoing at the time”.

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Scotland Yard said they have “appropriate policing plans” in place and that officers will be used from across the force “to support the public order operation during the coming weeks”.

They added: “We will always provide a proportionate policing plan to balance the right to a peaceful protest, while ensuring that disruption to communities is kept to a minimum.

April Stewart, who travelled from Carmarthenshire in Wales for the demonstration, said the prospect of being arrested “doesn’t phase me”.

The 52-year-old artist said: “I am not someone who is normally drawn to civil disobedience. I am moved by this cause, by this moment in time that we have to make a difference.”

Asked if she thought the Government will take notice, she said: “I guess that depends how effective we can be in shutting down the city.

“It has to inconvenience them enough, it has to inconvenience the financial system, it has to inconvenience the tourist industry, it has to inconvenience the Government enough to recognise that they need to engage with this.”

She said the disruption would mimic disruption they expect will be caused in the future by the effects of climate change and the destruction of the ecosystem.

Police advised people travelling around London in the coming days to allow extra time for their journey in the event of road closures and general disruption.