Gas masks have been fitted onto up to seventeen of London’s most recognisable statues this morning, as Greenpeace ramp up their campaign to demand government action on increasingly dangerous levels of air pollution in the British capital.
The most notable was the scaling of the 52-metre high Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, by two campaigners: Alison Garrigan, 29 and Luke Jones 30. The two started their climb under the cover of darkness at 4am, and had the gas mask fitted by 8:30am.
Police officers and an ambulance team, as well as several onlookers watched Garrigan and Jones ascend the monument. While sitting on the statue Garrigan spoke to LBC radio, and explained that both herself and Jones had years of climbing experience.
Another protestor managed to sneak through the security at the Houses of Parliament to fit a gas mask onto a statue of Oliver Cromwell. Masks were also fitted on to Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, Queen Victoria opposite Buckingham Palace and Thierry Henry at Arsenal’s Emirates stadium. Currently eight protestors have been arrested, although that figure may rise.
Greenpeace are calling for the next Mayor of London to “stop the talk and start the action.”
The protests have pulled long running debates around air pollution in London back into the spotlight. Nearly 9,500 people die prematurely from air pollution in London every year, an alarming figure, while the figure for the entire United Kingdom comes to nearly 40,000.
Greenpeace campaigner, Areeba Hamid told Huck that at schools across London “children are being forced to breathe illegal, dangerous air.”
“Londoners need greener and affordable public transport, along with air pollution alerts and an efficient and adequate system to measure air quality”, she continued.
Greenpeace are demanding an expanded Clear Air Zone to ensure less dangerous air enters Londoners’ lungs, greener and more affordable public transport, and an efficient and adequate system to measure air quality. With the London Mayoral election coming up on 5 May 2016, all eyes will be on the candidates to see what they will offer.
It’s not just London that has an issue with pollution – many major British cities breach the legal limits of pollution in the air.