Greenpeace activists put gas mask on Nelson’s column in pollution protest

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Greenpeace activists scale some of London’s best-known statues, including the 52-metre Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, to demand action on air pollution.

Two Greenpeace activists have climbed Nelson’s column in central London to fit a gas mask to the statue as part of a city-wide protest over air pollution.

Alison Garrigan and Luke Jones scaled the 52-metre monument to Admiral Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Square soon after dawn on Monday.

Once at the top they fitted a giant gas mask to Nelson’s face to highlight the dangerous levels of toxic air in the capital.

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Campaigners began scaling the statues at 4am on Monday starting with Nelson’s Column, and proceeded to kit out the stone figures with emergency face masks to “protect” them against London’s polluted air.

In total Greenpeace activists fitted gas masks to another 17 statues in the capital, including Oliver Cromwell in the grounds of the Houses of Parliament, Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, Queen Victoria opposite Buckingham Palace, Thierry Henry at Arsenal’s Emirates stadium and Eros’s plinth at Piccadilly Circus.

Paul Morozzo, a 49-year-old Greenpeace campaigner, who helped attach masks to statues of Eros, Queen Victoria and Boudicca and was not arrested, denied that the stunt was disrespectful to London’s heritage reports the Guardian.

“We were really careful not to damage any of the statues and we think it is legitimate way of making a point. It was creative, nothing was damaged, and it’s not permanent,” Morozzo told the Guardian.

Since 2005 London has broken World Health Organisation guidelines on safe air quality every year.

“Monitoring shows that if these statutes were real people, many of them would often be breathing dangerous, illegal air,” said Greenpeace campaigner Areeba Hamid.

“That’s why we’ve given them face masks.”

The campaigners are calling on the next London Mayor to introduce a Clean Air Zone across large swathes of the city, which they argue would protect more residents than the proposed Ultra Low Emission Zone, which is due to come into force in central London in 2020.

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