From atop a decommissioned fire engine parallel-parked in front of the British Treasury building Thursday morning, climate activists began unleashing hundreds of gallons of fake blood.
The activists’ plan, according to a statement about their protest, was to draw attention to what they say is the British government’s inconsistent messaging on climate change. The government claims to be a world leader in studying the way humans have affected global temperature and the decline of ecosystems worldwide, the activists say, while also pouring “vast sums” into “fossil fuel exploration and carbon-intensive projects.”
But literally three seconds after the activists started their flashy assault, they lost control of their hose, and the 1,800 liters (475 gallons) of fake blood that was supposed to cover the Treasury building’s facade instead ended up mostly on the street and sidewalk in front of it.
The group, Extinction Rebellion, never regained control of the hose, leaving the facade of the Treasury mostly untouched. But the road, sidewalk and front steps were drenched in red water that was colored with food dye, photos and video taken during and after the action show.
Nevertheless, the activists stood firm on the top deck of the firetruck as authorities arrived to arrest them.
Photos from the protest showed demonstrators being led away by police officers. A Met Police spokesman told BBC News that three men and one woman were arrested for alleged criminal damage.
Hanging from the vehicle was a sign that read, “STOP FUNDING CLIMATE DEATH.”
The protest-gone-awry was a precursor to a coordinated, global effort that kicks off Oct. 7 called International Rebellion, in which activists in 60 countries plan to pressure their governments to act on climate change.
It is organized by Extinction Rebellion, which calls on citizens to use peaceful civil disobedience to hold their governments accountable. The group is calling for a net-zero reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and the creation of a Citizens’ Assembly on “climate and ecological diversity.”
Talking to British radio station LBC on Thursday morning, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the climate change activist group involved in the fire-hose fiasco was responsible for putting additional pressure on a police service that is already “under-resourced and overstretched.”
While Khan noted that “bolder action” on climate change is necessary, he condemned the protest as disruptive and accused the group of diverting police attention from other issues affecting the city.
On social media, the group’s gaffe swiftly began trending in the United Kingdom, with opinion seemingly split over the messy protest. While some Britons found the group’s action entertaining, others rebuked the protest.
“What a complete disgrace these people are,” tweeted Conservative Party lawmaker Susan Hall. “I hope they are made to pay for the removal of this paint and the waste of Police and Fire Officers time. If they think this helps their cause they can think again!”
Another Conservative member of Parliament, James Cleverly, tweeted: “People doing stupid things like this, totally undermine the debate put forward by people who genuinely want to address climate change.”
Jennifer Hassan reported from London.