A priest from Reigate and painter and decorator from Dorking were two of the Surrey residents arrested last week during the Extinction Rebellion (XR) protests in London.

Both Reverend Helen Burnett from Reigate and Dorking resident Stephen McDonald took part in the XR occupations in central London and were eventually detained by police as a result of their actions.

The protests are aimed at drawing attention to the severity of the global climate crisis.

Extinction Rebellion want to encourage politicians and businesses to take emergency measures to reduce carbon emissions that are needed in order to avert catastrophe, according to scientists.

Speaking to the Comet, Rev. Burnett revealed she had been involved with XR since its formation in 2018 — taking part in the blocking of bridges last winter and the April rebellion in Spring this year, before joining the 'International Rebellion' of occupations that began on October 7.

"I was particularly interested in how Extinction Rebellion were looking at climate breakdown's impact on people spiritually, how it affects them emotionally.

"I've got involved with my local Extinction Rebellion group, which is called Larks Ascending, which is a Dorking, Reigate and Redhill group.

"On October 7 I was involved in the actions on Lambeth Bridge...and as a result of that I was arrested along with two other vicars," she described.

As of 2pm on Monday (October 14) the Met Police said that 1,405 people have been arrested in connection with the protests, Rev. Burnett and other leaders of different faiths including Jews and Muslims among them.

The Reigate reverend described the experience as "profound".

"This bridge was referred to as the Faith Bridge and I realized that as such it was important for people of faith to stay there and to make that protest on behalf of the faith they belong to.

"As the police moved in I realized that this was something I needed to do.

"So I sat prayerfully, and the arrest itself was very calm really. The police treated me with great respect," she said.

Indeed, respect between the police and XR activists has generally been a constant during the occupations both in April and in recent days.

Rev. Burnett praised the officers who arrested her and pointed out that they, like everyone else, would feel the effects of climate change too.

She added that it was her faith that had encouraged her to get involved.

While she wholeheartedly endorses the climate science, she said it was her duties as a vicar that spurred her onto civil disobedience.

"Within the Church of England we have the Five Marks of Mission which are areas in which we are asked to act, and to lead on if you're a member of the clergy like me.

"Well, the fifth one is to protect God's creation, so that is part of my ministry, and it has to be a priority now as we have not done that well lately," Rev. Burnett said.

Another Surrey resident arrested during the peaceful occupations was Mr McDonald, a 63-year-old painter and decorator from Dorking, who was detained by police at the XR sit ins this Spring and last week too.

He told the Comet that he is taking part in XR actions to help protect his children's future.

"This is the last chance for us to do something about the climate crisis. I've been an environmental campaigner for years — lobbying MPs, going on marches, leafleting, and nothing worked.

"The government has continued to ignore the problem and are still expanding fossil fuel production. That's why I have to do something — to protect the future for my children," Mr McDonald said.

Like many residents of the South East and Surrey who support Extinction Rebellion, he was arrested by police last week during the occupation of Whitehall, which was a task designated for XR's South East groups.

"The police are lovely, they are respectful, they are kind and concerned about our wellbeing. Our argument is not with them, it's with the government," Mr McDonald pointed out.

"We know it's disruptive to people but we think it's necessary to make the government sit up.

"We absolutely apologize for the disruption — I would feel angry if I was disrupted — but inevitably we're going to be paying a huge price by carrying on with business as usual and I am very proud of what we're doing," he said.