Amazon protests: 31 arrested as Extinction Rebellion targets retailer

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Amazon blockadeImage source, South Beds News Agency
Image caption,
Activists from Extinction Rebellion have targeted 13 sites in the UK including at Ridgmont, close to junction 13 of the M1 in Bedfordshire

More than 30 people have been arrested after climate change activists blocked UK Amazon warehouses on Black Friday, the retailer's busiest day of the year.

Extinction Rebellion targeted 13 UK sites, including the retail giant's largest distribution centre in Dunfermline, Fife.

It said it was to draw attention to alleged exploitation of Amazon workers and wasteful business practices.

Amazon said it took its "responsibilities very seriously".

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The campaign group said it was blocking multiple entrances using bamboo structures, lock-ons, and banners

The campaign group said blocked multiple entrances using bamboo structures, lock-ons, and banners and had planned to stay for at least 48 hours.

However, a number of the blockades were cleared by mid-afternoon.

The demonstrations started at 04:00 GMT at the Dunfermline warehouse, where about 20 activists stopped lorries entering the site and some from leaving.

The group also targeted sites in Doncaster; Darlington; Gateshead; Altrincham, Greater Manchester; Peterborough; East Midlands Airport, Leicestershire; Coventry; Rugeley, Staffordshire; Dartford, Kent; Bristol; Tilbury, Essex; and at Ridgmont, close to junction 13 of the M1 in Bedfordshire.

A spokesman said: "The action is intended to draw attention to Amazon's exploitative and environmentally destructive business practices, disregard for workers' rights in the name of company profits, as well as the wastefulness of Black Friday."

Image caption,
The site at Coventry is among those being targeted
Image caption,
Protests are also being held in Gateshead

Among those affected by the blockade was haulage firm J R Dixon, based in Workington, Cumbria, which said one its drivers was unable to leave the depot in Tilbury.

Phil Clarke, from the firm, said it meant the driver may not be able to get to Warrington for deliveries, or get home for the weekend.

"The knock-on effect of these protests is harming businesses and people's private lives," he said.

Image caption,
The site at Bristol has also been affected
Image caption,
Police were also at the scene of the blockade in Rugeley, Staffordshire

Protesters at Rugeley said it was "non-violent action" and there were about eight people on a bamboo structure, two on top and six on the concrete structure at the bottom.

Alice Martin, part of the group, said they wanted to highlight Amazon's use of "loopholes" to avoid tax and its destruction of unsold products, including electronic items.

"We also have witnesses and people working inside that have been reporting workers being exploited, being on difficult shifts for long hours with low wages, so that is all the things we want to highlight today," she said.

Image caption,
Nathan McGovern said the protest in Coventry would last 48 hours

Nathan McGovern, 22, at the blockade in Coventry, said he and fellow protesters were "disrupting and stopping any lorries from exiting and entering this facility".

"We are doing this because of Amazon's complicity and contribution to the climate crisis," he said.

He said they were hoping to stay for 48 hours but it was up to individuals if they wanted to stay for that entire time.

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In Darlington, an unnamed protester said they were aware they had "upset quite a few people today" but they had lobbied their MPs and had "tried using usual avenues and nothing is changing".

Extinction Rebellion said the blockade was part of an international action that would also target Amazon fulfilment centres in the US, Germany and the Netherlands.

The group's spokeswoman at the Dunfermline blockade, Meg Paton-Jones, said: "The police have one van on site and they are watching us.

"We started here at about 04:00 GMT but are not blocking the employees' car park so the night shift can leave.

"We have good vibes and music."

Image caption,
The protests are being staged on Black Friday, the retail giant's busiest day of the year
Image caption,
Protesters have set up bamboo structures, as seen at Amazon's fulfilment centre near East Midlands Airport

An Amazon spokesman said: "We take our responsibilities very seriously.

"That includes our commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040 - 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement - providing excellent pay and benefits in a safe and modern work environment, and supporting the tens of thousands of British small businesses who sell on our store.

"We know there is always more to do, and we'll continue to invent and invest on behalf of our employees, customers, small businesses and communities in the UK."

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Amazon, which has also seen its fulfilment centre in Altrincham targeted, said it took its "responsibilities very seriously"

Essex Police said 17 people were arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass following the protests at Windrush Road, Tilbury.

Greater Manchester Police arrested two men and two women on suspicion of public nuisance at the protest in Altrincham.

While five people were arrested by Kent Police on suspicion of aggravated trespass after the demonstration at the Littlebrook Business Centre in Dartford.

Four people were arrested by Durham Police following a demonstration outside the Amazon depot in Darlington.

Image caption,
Amazon's warehouse in Bristol has reopened following the action

Police Scotland said one person, who was not a protester, was charged under the Road Traffic Act in relation to the protest in Dunfermline.

The force said officers left the scene there at about 16:45.

Amazon's warehouse in Bristol reopened by 14:00 and police were also called to protests at Coventry and Ridgmont.

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