Big Ben: Anti-tier 3 lockdown activist climbs iconic London tower scaffolding

Kate Ng
·2-min read
Banners displayed by activist on Big Ben’s scaffolding, photographed by a passerby (Lita Zalite)
Banners displayed by activist on Big Ben’s scaffolding, photographed by a passerby (Lita Zalite)

An activist has climbed up the scaffolding surrounding Big Ben’s Elizabeth Tower and unfurled banners to protest about the coronavirus lockdown in the north of England.

The Metropolitan Police said officers had been called after the man scaled the scaffolding at around 7.50am on Thursday.

One banner reads: “No Tier 3 lock-down for Gt N’n Pwrhse unless an xtra £2bn for whole region from Chester, Stoke, Derby, Nott’m, Boston, Skeg’s to Scottish border. If not: Gt N’n rebellion. XR North + unions + BLM UK + LGBTBQ + many more.”

A second banner reads: “Black and all live matter so unify peoples of the world, unite and put things right.”

The Met tweeted: “At around 07:50hrs a man climbed up scaffolding surrounding the Elizabeth Tower #Westminster. Officers are on scene and dealing.”

Police confirmed the man, in his 60s, came down from the structure at around 9.45am. He was checked by officers before being arrested on suspicion of criminal trespass.

The one-man protest comes after several areas in northern England, including Greater Manchester, Liverpool and Lancashire, were moved into the harshest tier of coronavirus restrictions in a bid to control the virus.

Greater Manchester was moved into tier 3 status after talks between local leaders and Westminster failed and prime minister Boris Johnson imposed the new restrictions on the area on Wednesday.

The government initially offered an extra £60m to support businesses and individuals in Greater Manchester, but that was reduced to £22m after both sides could not reach a conclusion.

However, health secretary Matt Hancock later told MPs that the offer remained on the table if local council leaders came and asked for it.

The activist’s actions drew mixed reactions on social media, with some praising him for being “brave”.

One person said: “I’m not normally a fan of activists, however, this brave man is spot on. All the madness of this year myst be reversed. Life is to be LIVED, equally, by all.”

But others were concerned about the apparent lack of security that allowed the man to climb the scaffolding around the iconic London landmark.

“On a serious note, this is concerning that he was able to get that far given how much of a terrorist target Westminster Palace is. How does someone even get that far without being challenged? Was he not seen on CCTV? What if he was a wannabe Guy Fawkes and he had an IED?” another person asked.

A spokesperson for UK Parliament said in a statement: “We are aware of a trespasser on the Parliamentary Estate which is being dealt with by the Metropolitan Police and the Parliamentary Security Department.”

“Parliament takes security extremely seriously. A review is underway, the outcomes of which will not be disclosed for security reasons.“

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