This week marked one of the most important days for our nation's history. But it was overshadowed by Extinction Rebellion's protest at the Cenotaph. Their stunt shamefully disrespected veterans and politicised Remembrance Day, writes Noel Yaxley.

Armistice Day commemorates the end of the fighting on the Western Front between the Allies and Germany and was initially signed at 5:45am in Compiègne, France. It took effect from 11am, 11th November 1918. It effectively signalled the end of the first world war. With a cumulative death toll estimated at forty million, it is one of the deadliest conflicts in all of human history. At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month – we will remember them.

Everybody it would seem unless you were a member of everyone's favourite eco-warriors Extinction Rebellion. (XR)

You would think that a group who operate with a Dad's Army approach to protest would fit in well with Remembrance Day. But no, this is no ordinary protest group and these are not ordinary times. We are in the era of Covid-19 and the lockdown rules currently imposed upon the country means it is illegal to gather in the open with more than one other person from a different household.

Not that you would know it judging by the reaction (or lack of it) from the police.

On Remembrance Sunday 10,000 veterans normally head to Whitehall in central London and gather at the Cenotaph to pay their respects to lost loved ones and fellow soldiers that have been lost in the countless wars and conflicts over the last one hundred years.

But this year was a different affair. Veterans were not allowed to approach the Cenotaph. Lines of police had prevented them from accessing the memorial, which happens to have been built 100 years ago this year.

A few hours before 11am – the time when the bugle calls rendition of The Last Post signals the two-minute silence – two members of the eco-group approached the Cenotaph, and hung their own wreath on the memorial front and centre that read "climate change means war, act now."

Despite the Metropolitan Police being within close proximity of the memorial, It took them almost two hours to remove the wreath from the Cenotaph.

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What this would appear to suggest is that it is fine to gather at the Cenotaph if you want to protest climate change, but not should you wish to pay your respects to fallen soldiers.

This disrespectful and tasteless stunt is yet another example of the groups failure to understand the general population. Over the last twelve months, Extinction Rebellion have managed to effectively frustrate and annoy the entire country. If they have a PR Department, it would be working overtime. Every stunt of theirs is badly thought out, ill-conceived and like this one, is disrespectful and in bad taste. They have blocked printing presses, which interrupted the distribution of over a million newspapers, they have blocked roads which meant ambulances were unable to reach hospitals and even managed to intimidate the veteran broadcaster David Attenborough.

More worrying is the blatant hypocrisy when it comes to our now highly politicised police state. The reaction from the police appears to be vary depending on the issue you are protesting. Deviate from the 'correct' cause and face arrest. Take Piers Corbyn, the climate sceptic and anti-lockdown advocate. He was fined £10,000 for the crime of organising a protest. Or the arrest of more than one hundred other lockdown sceptics.

So why do they persist with such ridiculous protests? Well, I have spent a lot of time with the group. From training days to talks. What I learnt is that the group operates like a doomsday cult. Often making near catastrophic doom-laden prophecies about the future of the planet. Co-founder of XR Roger Hallam once claimed climate change will mean "6 billion people will die."

Far from winning people over to their cause this apocalyptic vision has left one in five British children having nightmares about climate change.

As for Extinction Rebellions shameful tasteless stunt? Well, the wreath placed on the Cenotaph by a member of the group said we need to act now to avert climate change. The thing is, we are.

Whilst we have not quite reached environmental enlightenment yet, we are certainly making progress. We have de-carbonised the economy quicker than the other 25 countries that will attend the next COP26 summit and our carbon emissions are at a level not seen since Victorian Britain.

As far as our air quality goes, it has steadily improved. Between 1970 and 2017, emissions of sulphur dioxide have fallen by 97 per cent. During the same period, nitrogen oxide levels have plummeted by 72 per cent as have non-methane volatile organic compounds: having fallen 66 per cent. As for particulate matter? Well, levels of particulate pollution (PM2.5) have decreased by 79 per cent. A lot of this progress is attributable to the phasing out of coal-burning in power stations. The last of which is scheduled to close in 2025.

The only wars we need to be thinking about right now are the ones where our soldiers gave their lives for this country. Desecrating a war memorial for a shameful political stunt like this is disgraceful.

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