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Climate change protesters target Surrey County Council meeting

Climate change protesters target Surrey County Council meeting

Published by Local Democracy Reporter Rebecca Curley at 6:37pm 21st May 2019.

Flowers and the singing of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” filled the public gallery at Surrey County Hall as protesters interrupted a meeting.

Councillors were forced to relocate to another meeting room as members of Extinction Rebellion Surrey stood singing in protest against the lack of action by the council on tackling climate change.

County council chairman councillor Tony Samuels adjourned the full council meeting on Tuesday (May 21) after a member of the group interrupted debates before around 35 environmental activists started singing.

They had been protesting outside the county hall as councillors arrived earlier that morning handing out flowers and letters to members asking them to “act now”.

Some of the councillors wore the flower given to them in their buttonholes.

The group from all over Surrey held flowers as the meeting started, but were forced to leave by council security when they interrupted the meeting.

They were singing the line “I’ll be watching you” repeatedly as they walked out.

Extinction Surrey were asking the council to do three things: to declare a climate emergency; to divest its pension fund from the fossil fuel industry; and to refuse drilling licenses for oil companies in the county.

Council leader Tim Oliver told councillors before the singing that he is setting up a working group to develop an environmental charter to include climate change issues.

He said: “As a county council we are clear as to our responsibility to our environment. 

“This group will also review the causes of traffic congestion which we know has a significant impact on air quality.

“I’m sure they will want to engage extensively with external organisations as they draw up a deliverable charter. Let’s see what we can do together to make a positive impact in this area.”

Speaking after the meeting, activist Chris Neill, from Godalming, said: “We were pleased that many of the councillors engaged with us outside the chamber and spoke positively, recognising Surrey County Council needs to do much more to address climate breakdown.

“However, it’s clear that they are not acting with the urgency that is required. We really don’t want to disrupt meetings but we have to do what’s necessary to draw attention to this very serious situation”

Claire Matthes, a mother from Haslemere taking part in the protest, said: “It goes against my personality to disrupt formal meetings but the times demand it.”

 

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