Extinction Rebellion Protesters Block Major Roads In South-East London

14 June 2019, 12:05 | Updated: 14 June 2019, 12:12

Extinction Rebellion protesters caused rush-hour chaos this morning as they blocked off several major roads south-east London.

The climate change activists blocked parts of the South Circular in Lewisham near the A21 and the A2.

Protesters walked into the road in groups, holding traffic up for several minutes at a time, holding placards which read "No killing Londoners" and "Let us breathe".

Several members of the group were wearing white anti-pollution masks, and stood silently by the sides of the roads, or helped to carry banners. Others wandered up and down the lines of stopped cars, handing out leaflets and brownies.

These demonstrations were the first in a series of protests for a campaign called "Let Lewisham Breathe." They are trying to bring attention to the dangerous levels of air pollution in Lewisham.

The World Health Organisation has found parts of the area have six times the "safe" levels of pollutants.

Extinction Rebellion protesters outside Lewisham station
Extinction Rebellion protesters outside Lewisham station. Picture: Freelancer

This isn't the first time Lewisham has come under scrutiny for air pollution.

Earlier this year, it was announced a fresh inquest will be held into the death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah, who died in 2013.

The original inquest listed her cause of death as a result of acute respiratory failure and severe asthma.

In 2018 however, a fresh report said unlawful levels of pollution recorded not one mile from Ella's home near the South Circular, could be to blame for her fatal asthma attack.

Judge Mark Lucraft QC, along with two other judges, ordered a fresh inquest following the new evidence.

If the new inquest confirms the 2018 findings, Ella will be the first person in the UK to officially die from air pollution.

Protesters on the South Circular
Protesters on the South Circular. Picture: Freelancer

Back at the protests, some drivers started beeping their horns angrily - while others shouted out of the windows telling the protesters to "get a life."

Activists from the group apologized for holding up Londoner's days but insisted their protest was raising awareness for an important cause.

The demonstrations attracted locals from the area who said this road in particular, is one of the most polluted in London.

One local said the smell and the fumes are so strong it feels like you're "eating them constantly."

Other residents raised concerns about the local council building new houses in these areas with dangerous levels of air pollution.

The London Borough of Lewisham has come under criticism for approving a residential scheme near Deptford Creek and the A2 - even though nitrogen dioxide levels in the area surpass legal safety limits.

Despite this, the council gave the go-ahead for 56 flats to be built on the site.

Residents will be advised against opening their windows, and a spokesperson for the council has confirmed the developer will provide a ventilation system to provide clean air for the lower floors of the building.

According to the latest data from the London Atmospheric Emission Inventory, almost two million people in the capital are living in areas with toxic levels of air pollution.