Come Hell or High Water: Extinction Rebellion welcomes Netpol report into the Met’s policing of its October protests
November 20, 2019 by Zoe Blackler
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- Report by The Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) finds 521 incidents of potential abuse of police power during October Rebellion
- Police over-reach characterised by systematic discrimination, routine use of force, intimidation and physical harm to protesters
- Shift in tactics followed pressure from politicians and the media
- Retired Detective Sergeant and member of Extinction Rebellion Police Liaison Team, Paul Stephens said: “we will not be deterred from raising the alarm about the Climate and Ecological Emergency until it is properly addressed by Government.”
Extinction Rebellion welcomes Netpol’s extensive report into the Met’s policing of our International Rebellion in October with its allegations of widespread police misconduct.
Read the full report here.
During the April Rebellion the police took a proportionate response, allowing us to protest peacefully in accordance with our civil rights. But following pressure from politicians and the press, the policing approach shifted from one of facilitating protest to one of seeking to prevent it, as this report demonstrates.
The report states: “…with senior officers, the Prime Minister and much of the media speaking in a derogatory way about XR and demanding an immediate clamp down on its protests – with little regard for any balance of rights – one would be naïve to think that this affected none of the officers whose behaviour has led to complaints in this report.”
As the 521 incidents of potential abuse of power that Netpol has amassed shows, policing in October was overzealous, discriminatory, characterised by the harassment and intimidation of protesters, and the confiscation and destruction of protesters’ property.
Examples they have collected include misuse of stop and search, rough handling resulting in physical harm to peaceful protesters and behaviour which sought to intimidate, creating a chilling effect on those considering joining the protests.
Netpol’s conclusions are supported by the High Court, which ruled earlier this month that the Met’s attempt at a city-wide blanket ban on Extinction Rebellion protests was an unlawful overreach of its powers.
The report is also backed up by the Met’s own disability advisory body, the Disability Independent Advisory Group, concluding that it had breached the Equality Act by discriminating against disabled activists. The DIAG lodged its first formal complaint against the force in more than 20 years, accusing it of “degrading and humiliating” treatment.
The report should provoke those within the Met’s leadership to seriously reflect on how to better police our protests in the future.
The shift in policing between the April and October rebellions came despite declarations of climate emergency from the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and over half of all local authorities in the UK. Over 1,000 doctors also declared, as did the Pope, and then in September, over two weekends, 7 million people took to the streets worldwide to demand action.
The UK government has raised its 2050 net zero emissions target from 80% to 100%, but has not produced a concrete plan for how this will be achieved. In his keynote speeches, Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to exclude the Climate and Ecological Emergency in his list of flagship policies. Extinction Rebellion is demanding that Government create and be led by a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.
Retired Detective Sergeant and member of Extinction Rebellion Police Liaison Team, Paul Stephens, said:“The Metropolitan Police is entrenched in a position of defending business as usual. They must lift their vision to properly grasp the immediacy and scale of the threat to the public that the climate and ecological emergency presents. They have a duty to protect the public in a fair and just way. We hope that the leadership of the Metropolitan Police are not the last to wake up.
“The Climate and Ecological Emergency and the threat to life are so important that Extinction Rebellion will not be deterred from raising the alarm until it is properly addressed by government.”
Pragnya Iovine, from Extinction Rebellion’s Legal Strategy Team, said:“Netpol’s report on the policing of the International Rebellion shows, yet again, the criminalisation and use of excessive force against those standing up for justice and truth – whether environmental, humanitarian or otherwise. The evidence provided in Netpol’s report also serves as a damning indictment of the police’s direct targeting of those with disabilities.
“We hope that this report, and the increased public scrutiny, will result in greater accountability of the police as Extinction Rebellion continues to demand that the government act to address the climate and ecological emergency. Environmental breakdown isn’t going anywhere, and until meaningful action is taken, neither are we.”
Martin Marston-Paterson, a disabled member of Extinction Rebellion who was arrested during the October protests, and a member of the Legal Support Team, said:“This report is important particularly because it shines a spotlight on police targeting of the disabled. We have known that this is something they do from the fracking protests in the North of England, but it is still shocking to see it taking place. It is imperative that the Met listen to the conclusions of this report – and the complaints of their own disability advisers – and to ensure that it does not happen again.
My own experience of this has opened my eyes to the struggles of oppressed groups and made me more determined to hold the police to account where this sort of behaviour occurs.” 
1. See Annex 3 of Netpol’s report.
3. In its letter to the Met, the DIAG said: “The effect on the relationship between the MPS [Metropolitan Police Service] and members of [the disabled and deaf] community is at risk of irreparable damage. The actions in the last few weeks will have long-lasting consequences for our community and will take many years to heal.” https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/oct/29/met-treatment-of-disabled-xr-activists-branded-degrading-and-humiliating
4. Martin’s experience is case study 8 in Netpol’s report
About Extinction Rebellion:
Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and abrupt, runaway climate change. Societal collapse and mass death are seen as inevitable by scientists and other credible voices, with human extinction also a possibility, if rapid action is not taken.
Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.
Extinction Rebellion’s key demands are:
Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.
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In the UK, come to one of our events, join the Rebellion Network and let us know how you can help out.
Start a group where you are: in the UK or around the world.
Find your local group.
Check out the International XR website, with links to the French, German, Italian and UK websites.
And while your time and energy are of most importance, if you are financially able to donate money, see our crowdfunder.
About Rising Up!
Extinction Rebellion is an initiative of the Rising Up! network, which promotes a fundamental change of our political and economic system to one which maximises well-being and minimises harm. Change needs to be nurtured in a culture of reverence, gratitude and inclusion while the tools of civil disobedience and direct action are used to express our collective power.