Security in Parliament is under scrutiny after climate activists posing as tourists crowded around the chair of the Speaker of the House of Commons.
Extinction Rebellion (XR) said around 50 people were involved in the “non-violent” action at the Palace of Westminster, including one who climbed scaffolding inside the parliamentary grounds near Westminster Hall.
They said three people booked for an official tour of the building stuck in a chain around the speaker’s chair before reading a speech in support of a citizens’ assembly to take action on climate issues.
The campaign group posted a photo on Twitter showing the three members holding hands outside the headquarters, with two other members holding signs.
Two of its members also used bicycle locks to chain themselves to the railings of the New Palace Yard entrance gates.
The Metropolitan Police said officers made eight arrests and the incident ended after two and a half hours.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle condemned the “disruption” and confirmed that the police and parliamentary security were carrying out a joint investigation into the incident.
An XR activist, who would only give his name as Al from Northamptonshire, said protesters smuggled banners into the House of Commons in a ‘bag within a bag’.
He told the PA news agency: “Today’s action was to form a circle around the President’s chair. People stuck around the Speaker’s chair, they didn’t damage the Speaker’s chair in any way, and they stuck to each other.
XR protester Joe Short, from Bristol, locked himself in the railings outside the Houses of Parliament.
He said: “It’s part of a bigger protest which is about climate inaction, but it’s also about a citizens’ assembly which is an alternative form of democracy that could be much more effective in dealing with issues like climate change.”
Asked if he was uncomfortable chained to railings and surrounded by police, Mr Short said: “At the end of the day, in the scheme of things, it’s not such a position. uncomfortable.”
The Met said in a statement: ‘Four protesters who were present in the bedrooms and had stuck to each other were taken off and arrested. None of these demonstrators were glued to the President’s chair and the President’s chair suffered no damage.
“A protester who stuck to the pavement inside the PoW (Palace of Westminster) has been taken off and arrested. A protester who climbed scaffolding within the PoW descended of his own volition and was arrested.
“The six people above have all been arrested on suspicion of offenses under section 128 of the Organized Crime and Policing Act 2005.
“Two protesters who locked themselves in the car doors were expelled and arrested for failing to comply with the instructions of Section 143 of the Police Reform and Social Accountability Act 2011. All those arrested have been taken into custody at central London police stations where they currently remain.
“A police investigation into the incident is currently underway liaising closely with our parliamentary security colleagues to establish the full circumstances of the incident.”
Sir Lindsay added: ‘It is a real shame that visitors who made arrangements to join tours of the Palace of Westminster today have had their tours cut short and cancelled.
“Despite the disruption, democratic tours will take place tomorrow.
‘A joint investigation into the incident will take place between Police and Parliamentary Security, and I will provide a further update to the House of Commons at the start of business on Monday.’
The Commons and Lords are in recess until Monday.