Hundreds of police officers are being drafted in from across England and Wales to help cope with the Extinction Rebellion protests in London.
Demonstrations shutting down the roads around Parliament and Whitehall to call for urgent action on the climate change and wildlife loss have continued into a third day, including mothers with babies marching on Downing Street.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said thousands of officers from the London force and colleagues from around the country were working long hours in challenging conditions.
“They have managed so far to secure the bridges and clear the arterial routes through London, and thereby minimise disruption,” she said.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council said 500 officers are being drafted in from across England and Wales, with police being sent from all the 10 regional organised crime units that cover the two countries.
They are arriving in tranches across this week, with officers from forces closest to London such as Kent, Sussex and Hampshire already in the capital and others set to arrive in the coming days.
On Wednesday morning, elderly protesters were arrested outside Downing Street, with people carried and led out of the main road in Whitehall while onlookers sang and shouted “we love you”.
Tents remained on some of the roads in the area, and mothers staged a mass breastfeeding near Parliament before marching on Downing Street.
Hundreds of women fed their babies outside the QEII centre, where Boris Johnson had been announced as the Conservative Party leader, to “plead for the lives” of their children.
Lorna Greenwood, 32, who organised the event, said: “We’re bringing the youngest lives who will be affected by the climate crisis to the heart of Westminster.”
The parade was momentarily stopped by officers who refused to allow the prams down Whitehall, creating a stand-off between police and parents.
But the rows of mothers eventually settled next to the Cenotaph, just yards from Number 10, to breast- and bottle-feed their babies.
The latest protests come after almost 600 Extinction Rebellion protesters were arrested in the first two days of their two-week demonstration in London.
Officers detained 261 people in the UK capital on Tuesday amid activists gluing themselves to buildings and refusing to move when prompted by the Metropolitan Police.
That came after 319 were arrested on Monday on the first day of the international action, which is taking place in cities across the world to demand more be done by governments to tackle climate change.
In the UK, Extinction Rebellion is calling on the Government to declare a climate and ecological emergency, to act immediately to halt wildlife loss and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
They also want to see the Government create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.
Disruption is expected for the rest of the week, with protesters set to target City Airport in east London with a peaceful sit-in on Thursday.