A minister has said “robust action” will be taken against climate change protesters if they break the law during the London Marathon.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said it would be “terrible” if environmental demonstrations held this weekend disrupted the event – though activists have vowed to avoid doing so.
Extinction Rebellion is staging a four-day protest, which it estimates will attract “40,000 to 50,000” activists, outside Parliament Square on Friday.
It has been in talks with the marathon race director to ensure minimal disruption along with Just Stop Oil, which is also planning a protest.
“I think it would be terrible for anybody to disrupt the marathon. Thousands of people will have trained for a whole year or more for this, many of them raising money for charity, and I think it would be terrible for people to try and use this as an excuse to make a political point.”
He added: “We’ll be very robust about dealing with people who break the law.”
A spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion said: “We’re expecting around 40,000-50,000 people to be outside Parliament over the weekend.”
London Marathon director Hugh Brasher previously said his talks with Extinction Rebellion had prompted the agreement that “they will be uniquely asking all their participants to help guard the London Marathon”.
He said: “I trust Extinction Rebellion, they have been very clear of what they are doing and why. I hope Just Stop Oil and the other organisations listen to what we are saying.”
The environmental group’s spokeswoman said that while its stewards will protect the runners from the protest, “the whole thing has slightly been taken out of context”.
“We’ve been in close collaboration with the London Marathon since last year so that our protest can co-exist with the marathon,” she said.
“We met them a couple of days ago and said that we were going to protect people from the protest, and I think what the media has taken that to mean is that we’re going to protect the race from other groups protesting.
“Really what we meant by it was that we have stewards who will be helping to keep the area safe.”
She added that all the organisations signed up to take part in the protest have assured Extinction Rebellion they will not disrupt the marathon.
Just Stop Oil confirmed it had also been in talks with the marathon director, and activist Anna Holland told GB News: “I’m just going to say now: we’re not going to disrupt the marathon.
“We do also encourage anyone who’s coming to the marathon to also join us to march for the climate because it’s so important.”