THE UK capital was brought to a standstill on the first day of a two-week long campaign by activist group Extinction Rebellion against climate change.

Celebrities, including actors Sir Mark Rylance, Juliet Stevenson and Ruby Wax, and fashion models Daisy Lowe and Arizona Muse, went to central London yesterday to support the protesters.

Mark Rylance addressed a crowd assembled off The Mall in the drizzling rain and said: “The collapse of society is certain. I have many friends in the entertainment industry who are struggling to come up with stories that match what is actually going on today.

Read more: Climate protesters spray fake blood across Treasury steps

“People have been saying to me, it doesn’t make a difference having a celebrity joining the protests. But I want people to know climate change protesters aren’t ‘hippies’. I am confident these protests are going to lead to a solid change. I have seen protests against apartheid, poll tax, and all sorts of things create a change. Extinction Rebellion isn’t going to go away.”

HeraldScotland: Camley's Cartoon: Extinction Rebellion protests begin in London.Camley's Cartoon: Extinction Rebellion protests begin in London.

The multi-award winning actor, who repairs his clothes and drives an electric car, encouraged cheering protesters to camp overnight so police could not remove their gazebos and signs. Following his speech, one protester presented the actor with an acorn and another thanked him for resigning from the Royal Shakespeare Company in June in protest against the company’s links to BP oil. This week the RSC ended their eight-year contract with the oil provider.

Ms Stevenson and others gathered in Trafalgar Square opposite Nelson’s column, where a funeral car containing a coffin which read “our future” was parked. She said: “It’s a very wonderful action today. We can’t any longer allow governments to do this so we have to make it clear that there is no more time.

“This is the most important issue of our time. We’ve been swamped by Brexit for the last three years and no-one has been thinking of much else, especially politicians. This is the main issue at the moment. There’s a long tradition in this country of people saying governments are not acting. We have to make them realise how urgent this is.

“This is a global issue and we don’t feel it so much here but all over the world millions and millions of people are having their livelihoods wrecked.

In Pictures: Extinction Rebellion activists protest in London

“We’ve known this for years. I’m optimistic about the energy there is amongst people to act, but I’m not hugely optimistic about government stepping up to the plate.

“They’re (the Government) talking about 2050 and scientists have said we have 12 years before we’re in a place where the climate is irreversibly damaging our planet and we won’t be able to repair or fix it.

“We need to make them realise that time is not on our side at the moment.”

Protesters blocked roads around Westminster and set up camps with tents and banners as they call for urgent action on the climate and wildlife crises. By 3pm, the Metropolitan Police said 148 people had been arrested in connection with the fortnight-long protests. But activists succeeded in bringing the area to a standstill with roadblocks on Westminster and Lambeth Bridges, Victoria Street, Whitehall, Horse Guards Road and the Mall.

Parliament Square was empty of traffic except for police vans, bicycles and rickshaws carrying tourists, while costumed protesters walked up Whitehall, and a hearse was used to block the road at Trafalgar Square. An impromptu cricket game was held outside the Supreme Court and yoga classes took place on Westminster Bridge.

Extinction Rebellion says the protests could be as much as five times bigger than those held in April, which brought major disruption to London and saw more than 1,100 arrests including a contingent travelling from Scotland.

It is part of an “international rebellion”, with action taking place in cities including Berlin, Madrid, Amsterdam and New York.

Extinction Rebellion protester Caroline Hartnell, 69, from London, said activists were going to be surrounding all Government ministries. She said: “We are going to be putting pressure on them – what they are going to do is mend the climate emergency, because we are running out of time.

“I have seven grandchildren and the youngest is three. I feel passionately for them and worry there won’t be a world for them to live in.”