This is why Extinction Rebellion protesters blocked traffic in Leeds

Protesters from Extinction Rebellion, a radical movement against 'climate collapse', blocked several roads in Leeds on Friday, May 3.

Around 40 people from the Leeds branch of the movement met at Wharf Chambers at 11am before taking part in a 'swarming protest' throughout the city.

Protesters block traffic on the A61. PIC: Sam Gillibrand

Protesters block traffic on the A61. PIC: Sam Gillibrand

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The first action took place on the A61 near John Lewis where traffic was blocked for seven minutes shortly after 12noon.

The demonstrators, who said they felt the action had gone 'really smoothly, blocked roads for up to seven minutes after Extinction Rebellion's legal team warned any longer could lead to arrests.

Freya Abbotts, 22, a student in Leeds said that the reception the group had received from the public had been encouraging.

Members of Extinction Rebellion Leeds including Freya Abbots, fifth from left and Tom Fox, fourth from right.

Members of Extinction Rebellion Leeds including Freya Abbots, fifth from left and Tom Fox, fourth from right.

She said: ""We've had a few people who aren't aware and were a bit frustrated, which is understandable because we are delaying their day.

"But I've noticed so many people are aware of what we're doing and saying that it's a good thing."

The intention of the protests, which are taking place all over the UK, is to force the UK Government to take action against climate change.

Miss Abbotts continued: "We don't place blame on individuals, we need systematic change.

"Individuals can make small differences but that won't do enough.

"We need a complete overhaul."

Part of the ethos of the group is to change the conversation about climate change.

Tom Fox, 29, a musician based in the city, explained: "We need to alter conversation and we're changing the words you hear.

"We should refer to it as an emergency, it's drastic and needs radical action if we're going to succeed."

The group explained they felt the term of climate change wasn't strong enough to describe the situation.

"This is climate collapse." Miss Abbotts said.

Further road blocks took place on Neville Street near Leeds Station and on The Headrow.

In March, Leeds council declared a climate emergency in the city.

However, several people campaigning today said that the decision was not being backed up by actions.

Miss Abbotts explained: "Despite official policy, we're still seeing the expansion of Leeds Bradford airport, promises are not being followed through in actions."

READ MORE: Leeds council to declare climate emergency in the city

Several of the protesters had been involved in the action in London in April which saw the capital disrupted over ten days.

Councillor James Lewis, Executive Board Member for Resources and Sustainability, said: “Leeds City Council recognises that tackling climate change is an unprecedented and urgent global challenge.

"Since declaring a climate emergency in March, this council has already agreed on independent, science-based emissions targets and a roadmap for the city.

“Despite stretched council budgets we are continuing to work hard towards a cleaner and greener Leeds, for example by investing in ultra-low emission vehicles, better home insulation, low energy street lighting and the planned Clean Air Charging Zone.

“We are committed to making Leeds a carbon-neutral city. But achieving the necessary targets won’t be possible without the widespread support of individuals, organisations and central Government.

"That’s why, earlier this week, council officers met with activists and partners to collaboratively plan for a city wide conversation about how Leeds can collectively and equitably reduce its carbon footprint. As one of the biggest cities in the UK—the fifth largest economy in the world—the potential impact we can have is significant.

“I encourage every Leeds resident interested in tackling climate change to work with us to help facilitate a successful and impactful conversation. By working together, we can better engage the city and ensure unprecedented local commitments to tackle climate change."

Though nothing had been organised, several protesters suggested that the Extinction Rebellion action could begin to happen on a regular basis in Leeds.

The Leeds Youth Strike for Climate - who have organised strikes from school over the past few months - said that while they did not 'endorse' Friday's action, they 'support their intention to bring awareness to this issue given its inconsistency with the council's recent climate emergency declaration.