CLIMATE change activists from Monmouthshire were on the front line of protests in London over the Easter weekend, taking part in demonstrations organised by pressure group Extinction Rebellion (XR).

Twenty members of the group’s Abergavenny and Monmouthshire branch were among thousands of activists who descend on the capital, first in a static demonstration in Oxford Circus on Good Friday, and later leading a roadblock-style protest near Marble Arch the following day.

One man from Monmouthshire was arrested and later released without charge, the branch said.

Diana Wallace, 64, was one of those who travelled from Monmouthshire to take part.

She said many of those who took part did so because they felt more passive channels of opposition to climate change had been ineffective.

“There’s a sense of deep frustration and very, very deep concern about where we are and a need for action,” Mrs Wallace said.

“A report in October 2018 gives us only 11 years [before catastrophic damage is caused] and there’s been no action from the government. They’re still pushing for fracking. There’s no sense the government or politicians are listening.”

Mrs Wallace, who travelled to London from Raglan with her husband, said MPs should be pressured into speaking out against climate change. But she accused Monmouth MP David Davies of “denying” the existence of climate change.

When asked about these allegations, Mr Davies told the Argus he agreed there is a need to reduce harmful particulate matter (PM) emissions, but was “less convinced by the arguments against carbon dioxide (CO2)”.

The Conservative MP also said the UK was “doing its bit [to solve environmental problems] in a responsible fashion,” saying CO2 emissions in the UK were at their lowest since the 1980s.

He added he supported people’s right to protest, but disagreed with the demonstrations because of the disruption they had caused to public and private transport over the past week.

More than 1,000 activists, who were operating in smaller groups under a single cause, have been arrested since current round of demonstrations organised by Extinction Rebellion, or XR, began on Monday, April 14.

Protests have taken place on London’s roads, train and tube network, and at Heathrow Airport.

According to the Metropolitan Police, a total of 71 people have been charged with a variety of offences including breaches of the Public Order Act 1986.

But Mrs Wallace, who spent two days in the thick of the weekend’s action in London, offered a different view of the mood surrounding the protests, despite participants’ willingness to face a criminal record.

“This is a non-violent movement which pushes the boundaries and invites people to get arrested,” she said.

“People feel normal routes have failed, and there has to be an alternative method.

“People who’ve done this before feel they’re at a point where they have to make sacrifices because they’re so concerned. They feel that if enough people take action, they can change things and move governments.”

Although one man from Monmouthshire was arrested on Friday, he was later released without charge and allowed to rejoin the group, Mrs Wallace told the Free Press on Tuesday.

She said police officers had been generally tolerant of the protesters’ actions, with some officers telling her they shared concerns about climate change.

She also denied reports XR groups had left behind litter.

At Marble Arch on Saturday, the Abergavenny group led a “swarming” protest, blocking traffic in five-minute intervals before re-opening the road.

While some protesters – including Mrs Wallace – held banners, others distributed flyers and explained their actions to waiting motorists.

“We tried to make it fun, and most drivers were supportive,” Mrs Wallace said.

“Lots of people said we were doing the right thing. One driver was angry and got out of his van, but the police calmed him down. They were incredibly supportive.”

Emergency service vehicles and people travelling to hospital were always let through, she added.

The local branch of the XR group, she said, has about 150 members of all ages, from young people and students to retirees.

“The people I’ve met are very concerned and trying to minimise their own carbon footprints,” Mrs Wallace said. “They care deeply about the environment and planet Earth.”

She added: “This is just the beginning.”