Extinction Rebellion wins landmark legal challenge to Met Police ban on peaceful protest
November 06, 2019 by Zoe Blackler
The High Court today ruled that the Metropolitan Police’s blanket ban on Extinction Rebellion protest during the October Rebellion was unlawful, in a landmark judgment that reasserts the fundamental right to peaceful protest.
The ruling follows a judicial review – brought on behalf of Extinction Rebellion by Baroness Jenny Jones, Caroline Lucas, Clive Lewis, David Drew, Ellie Chowns MEP, Adam Allnut and George Monbiot – into the legality of the Met’s attempt to shut down all Extinction Rebellion protests during most of the second week of the Autumn Rebellion.
The ban, implemented under Section 14 of the Public Order Act and covering the whole of London, came into effect at 9pm on Monday 14th October and lasted until 6pm on Friday 18th October.
Finding in Extinction Rebellion’s favour, Lord Justice Dingemans and Justice Chamberlain said: “We have held that the decision to impose the condition was unlawful because Superintendent McMillan had no power to impose it under section 14(1) of the 1986 Act…[the] decision to impose the condition on 14 October 2019 will be quashed”.
In their judgment, the Court agreed with Extinction Rebellion’s lawyers that: “the language of Section 14(1) itself makes clear that there is no power to prohibit rather than merely impose conditions on gatherings that have not yet begun”.
MEP Ellie Chownes, a complainant in the case who was arrested under the ban, said the judgement upheld the right to peaceful assembly and protest, a “fundamental cornerstone of our democracy”.
Tobias Garnett is a human rights lawyer in Extinction Rebellion’s Legal Strategy team: “Extinction Rebellion is delighted with the Court’s decision,” Tobias said. “It vindicates our belief that the Police’s blanket ban on our protests was an unprecedented and unlawful infringement on the right to protest.
“Rather than wasting its time and money seeking to silence and criminalise those who are drawing its attention to the Climate and Ecological Emergency, we call on the Government to act now on the biggest threat to our planet. Where is its plan?”
Over 400 Extinction Rebellion activists were arrested during the four-day ban, the vast majority under Section 14 of the Public Order Act. Those not charged with other offences can now sue the Met for false imprisonment following their unlawful arrests and may be entitled to compensation.
Caroline Lucas MP, co-leader of the Green Party also helped to bring the case. “The police use of a Section 14 order to ban all Extinction Rebellion protests across the whole of London was a huge over-reach of police powers,” she said. “This power is there to help the police manage protests, not shut them down altogether. Extinction Rebellion are carrying a message we all need to hear. They won’t be silenced by a police crackdown, nor should they be in a free democratic society.”
Clive Lewis MP, the Labour Party’s Shadow Minister for Sustainable Economics, also a complainant, said: “Extinction Rebellion is sounding the alarm about the climate and ecological emergency. Rather than trying to block our ears by shutting down their protests, we should be reacting to the danger they’re alerting us to. Averting that danger requires urgent and radical change, not the criminalisation of peaceful protest.”