LONDON, UK, October 15, 2019 (ENS) – London’s Metropolitan Police Service Monday banned demonstrations by the climate change protest movement Extinction Rebellion in central London, under Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986. This law allows “conditions” to be placed on public assemblies.
“Any assembly linked to the Extinction Rebellion ‘Autumn Uprising’…must now cease their protest(s) within London (Metropolitan Police Service, and City of London areas by Monday morning October 14th,” the Met Police said in a statement.
Protestors were notified and given a chance to leave. Anyone who failed to comply with the order is liable for arrest and prosecution.
But Extinction Rebellion climate protesters are not backing down and intend to continue their mass civil disobedience campaign in London regardless of the city-wide ban.
Extinction Rebellion has been calling for a two-week “International Rebellion” starting on October 7 in 60 cities worldwide. “Together, we will peacefully occupy the centres of power and shut them down until governments act on the Climate and Ecological Emergency,” the group urges on its website. “Leave your desk. Invite your boss. Walk out of school. Switch off the TV. Put down your phone. Get on the streets. And bring everybody.”
And the slogan this new movement has become famous for, “Respect existence or expect resistance.”
Police moved in Monday night with scant warning to clear protesters who had defied the police order and stayed at the movement’s camp in Trafalgar Square.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor justified police action, saying, “These conditions have been imposed due to the continued breaches of the section 14 condition previously implemented, and ongoing serious disruption to the community.”
“We have made significant progress in managing Extinction Rebellion’s activity at sites across central London over this past week. “Officers have begun the process of clearing Trafalgar Square and getting things back to normal,” Taylor said.
“Today, protestors targeted areas in the City of London, causing further disruption to people and businesses in London’s financial district. Police made more than 90 arrests.”
“The Labour Party unequivocally supports the right to protest,” said Dianne Abbott MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, responding to the Met Police’s banning of Extinction Rebellion from the whole of London. “The Extinction Rebellion protests have been largely peaceful and brought vital attention to the climate emergency – the most important issue facing the world.”
“Any criminal acts should, of course, be handled by police, but an outright ban is wrong and completely contrary to Britain’s long-held traditions of policing by consent, freedom of speech, and the right to protest,” Abbot declared.
For their part, the Met Police are determined to make their ban stick.
“Since the beginning of this operation officers have been working hard to keep London moving,” Taylor said. “There have been more than 1,400 arrests, and a number of people have been charged. The policing operation continues, and we will continue to take action against anyone engaged in unlawful protests at locations targeted by Extinction Rebellion.”
Yet, on Tuesday morning Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, led a protest at the Department for Transport in London.
Standing atop the entrance to the government building before police arrested her, Bradbrook demanded that ministers explain how their continued expansion of roads and airports did anything to help achieve a net-zero emissions target.
“I do this for the beautiful pear tree at Cubbington Woods, 250 years old – they have no rights,” declared Bradbrook. “I do this in fierce love of the 108 ancient woodlands threatened by HS2, this climate crime of a project. I do this in the spirit of what Emmeline Pankhurst called the noble art of window smashing.”