Extinction Rebellion has been widely condemned for comparing activists who stood on top of London tube trains with US civil rights activist Rosa Parks.

It came after furious commuters at busy Canning Town station threw drinks at one Extinction Rebellion protester yesterday before he was yanked from the train to the platform, much to the delight of the crowd.

In a now-deleted tweet, the official Extinction Rebellion Twitter account wrote: “Rosa Parks refused to move from the white section of the bus and our rebels refused to bequeath a dying planet to future generations by failing to #ActNow.”

Rosa Parks was a civil rights activist in Montgomery, Alabama, arrested in 1955 for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus.

One person tweeted: “Sorry...  are you equating a bunch of middle class white people intentionally disrupting public transport in predominantly poor, working class, ethnic areas to – checks notes – a woman who helped pioneer the civil rights movement so black people could be seen as human beings?”

Another post said: “Rosa Parks was part of a sophisticated network of black activists who built inclusive strategies for resistance to build *with* people, not against them, not speaking over them. Maybe learn from them? Your leaders are open about their choices + they *are* choices to be ignorant.”

Another tweeted: “Did they just compare themselves to Rosa Parks... Who had PLANNED this action and had a community behind her to support the boycott to limit the damage done to the most affected? Unlike XR? The caucasity.”

“Disruption as a form of protest: good. Targeting working class workers using a green form of transport: bad. Invoking Rosa Parks whilst ignoring critique of your very white and racist tactics and rhetoric: truly awful,” another said.

Others have criticised the comparison for being made during Black History Month.

British Transport Police confirmed eight people had been arrested on suspicion of obstructing the railway, and also urged commuters not to “take matters into their own hands”.

Extinction Rebellion co-founder Clare Farrell defended the action and said: “The public, I don’t think, realise quite how serious this situation is. There is a vast vulnerability that people have in the face of climate and ecological emergency.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan condemned the protest as “an unfair burden on our already overstretched police officers”.

He added: “This illegal action is extremely dangerous, counter-productive, and is causing unacceptable disruption to Londoners who use public transport to get to work. I urge demonstrators to protest peacefully and within the boundaries of the law.”