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Clean air activists fit face masks to London statues

Greenpeace activists have fitted mock face masks to 15 statues in order to highlight air pollution in London

Greenpeace activists have targeted 15 famous statues across London today (April 18) – including Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square – in order to highlight the health risks posed by air pollution in the UK capital.

Greenpeace campaigners climbed Nelson's Column this morning (April 18)

Greenpeace campaigners climbed Nelson’s Column to fit it with a mock face mask (photo: Greenpeace)

Two protestors – Alison Garrigan and Luke Jones – began climbing Nelson’s Column at 4am this morning to fit the 52-metre-high stature of Admiral Lord Nelson with a mock-up emergency face mask to emphasise the need to tackle air pollution in London.

Also this morning, a separate Greenpeace team climbed over the fence around the Houses of Parliament to put a mask upon the face of an Oliver Cromwell statue in order to provide “protection against London’s dirty airâ€? the environmental activist group said.

In all, 15 face masks were today fitted to statures across the capital by Greenpeace activists, including that of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, Queen Victoria opposite Buckingham Palace, Thierry Henry outside Arsenal FC’s Emirates Stadium and Eros at Piccadilly Circus.

Eight people have been arrested so far after today’s action, which has now finished, according to Greenpeace.

A spokesman for Westminster city council said its inspectors were “working to remove” the masks from affected statues in the borough, but that Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square are the responsibility of the Greater London Authority.

Westminster Oliver Cromwell statue - greenpeace stunt

Other statues targeted included this of Oliver Cromwell at the Houses of Parliament (photo: Greenpeace)

The action served to highlight calls for action on air pollution, with Greenpeace urging both the Prime Minister David Cameron as well as the winning candidate in the upcoming London Mayor elections for a number of policies to tackle the problem.

“Monitoring shows that if these statutes were real people, many of them would often be breathing dangerous, illegal air. That’s why we’ve given them face masks.” – Areeba Hamid, Greenpeace campaigner

Greenpeace campaigner Areeba Hamid said: “Monitoring shows that if these statutes were real people, many of them would often be breathing dangerous, illegal air. That’s why we’ve given them face masks. Of course many millions of Londoners, including kids, are breathing that same air. Kitting everyone out with face masks is not the solution, instead we need to see real political action from the new Mayor. We need a Clean Air Zone covering a large part of the city. Whoever wins the election has to stop the talk and start the action.â€?

The current proposal for a ULEZ (ultra low emission zone) in the capital from 2020 “only offers protection from dangerous air to residents and commuters in zone 1â€?, she said.

She added: “At schools across London children are being forced to breathe illegal, dangerous air. Londoners need greener and affordable public transport, along with air pollution alerts and an efficient and adequate system to measure air quality. The next mayor should begin a consultation on a Clean Air Zone immediately after the election.â€?

A petition has also been launched by the organisation calling for an “electric vehicle revolutionâ€? as well as a network of Clean Air Zones and greater regulation of the car industry.

Greenpeace activists have urged for action on air pollution in London (photo: Greenpeace)

Greenpeace activists have urged for action on air pollution in London (photo: Greenpeace)

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