‘We’re not having it!’ Extinction Rebellion tell the Police STOP SUPPRESSING PEACEFUL PROTEST
September 03, 2020 by Extinction Rebellion
Mobilising citizens journalists, legal observers and our legal team – Extinction Rebellion will not allow abuses of police powers to pass.
Following the racist arrest of a young black bystander in Parliament Square, repeated arrests without warning in Parliament Square, threats of conspiracy charges made against two men pushing a boat named ‘Lightship GRETA’ after the teenage climate activist, from Brighton to London and the confiscation of a banner, Extinction Rebellion has put the Metropolitan Police on notice.
We condemn as grossly excessive the Met’s communications, their policy and their policing on the ground.
Overzealous communications the Met is putting out that appear intentionally vague or designed to deter people from joining the protests, have included:
- A written threat in advance of our protests citing Coronavirus regulations that did not apply to our action.
- A notice issued on the eve of Rebellion that appeared to effectively ban protest across London. Following a legal challenge by our lawyers, the Met backed down, blaming a misunderstanding.
- A threat to impound our lightship “Greta” under conspiracy laws.
Policy that constitutes an overreach of their powers have included:
- Excessive numbers of officers on the ground out of proportion to the peacefulness of the protests.
- Attempt to reduce numbers of attendees by restricting areas in which people can protest.
Incidents on the ground have included:
- Racist policing including the targeting of a young black bystander (video here). The young man who was watching the protests at 16:00 on Tuesday 1 September, was grabbed by his arms which were then yanked behind his back and handcuffed. As he was hauled away he cried ‘my arms, my arms’ which the police ignored.
- Wrongly using Section 14s outside the Parliament Square focussed area, for example in Victoria Street against Animal Rebellion today (Thursday 3rd September).
- The removal of a banner which read UNFUCK THE SYSTEM under Section 5 of the Public Order Act. Insulting language on banners is not illegal if it does not identify an individual.
Gracie Bradley, interim director of Liberty, said: “These restrictions are heavy-handed and go too far.”
Ali Brumfitt, a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion, said:
“History shows us how aggressive policing is used as a tool to criminalise and control Black communities, muslim communities, poor communities, and to silence those speaking out against injustice. The aim is to paint peaceful people as violent, lawful people as criminals and vulnerable people as a threat. The aim is to set communities against each other and detract from the failures of Government. We’re not having it. We will stand against this and for our right to protest. We will stand against oppression. We want to live.”
Kevin Blowe, Coordinator, Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) said:
“Our independent report on the policing of last October’s Extinction Rebellion protesters highlighted the misuse of police powers and disproportionate and unjustifiable levels of aggression and violence in making arrests. Our monitoring over the last few days has started to receive evidence and testimony from campaigners about similar incidents.
“It seems little has been learnt by the police since the High Court overturned its unlawful restrictions on the right to protest last year, with added concerns raised now about the apparent targeting of young people from black and minority communities.
“The suspicion remains that the Metropolitan Police see all XR supporters as “criminals” and are judging them not on their individual actions, but by their association with a movement that officers perceive as “illegitimate”. This isn’t facilitating the right to freedom of assembly – once again, it’s looking for ways to aggressively shut XR’s protests down.”
Jules Carey of Bindmans representing XR said: “Even before the protests started this week misinformation published by the Met Police served to deter some activists from participating in the XR related actions. Following our challenge the Met backtracked and withdrew these communications and committed to publishing accurate information about police powers going forward. The Met Police have form for over-zealously policing XR activities including their failed attempt to ban all XR protests last autumn; and also placing XR on a list of extremist ideologies under the Prevent programme. XR are determined that their supporters should be permitted to exercise their democratic right to protest and draw political attention to the climate emergency, and they will fully utilise all legal options if this right is interfered with”.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner for the Met Laurence Taylor told the BBC that his force had learned lessons from last year’s protests.
A key lesson they should have learnt was that we will defend our right to protest in the courts. Our successful Judicial Review against the Met’s policing of our October Rebellion cost the public 10s of 1000s of pounds – in processing illegal arrests and High Court costs – and exposed it to further costly false imprisonment claims.
Taylor has said: “The police’s role is to enforce the law and where behaviour is unlawful…we will deal with [it] and we will deal with [it] robustly.”
Extinction Rebellion says: The police’s role is to enforce the law and where their behaviour is unlawful, we will deal with it and will deal with it robustly.
Our lawyers have already communicated with the Met’s legal department about their attempt on Monday to restrict our protests and they acknowledged their mistake. We will be gathering examples of overzealous communications, policy and on the ground policing in the coming days. Our lawyers are on stand by.
For more information contact Zoë Blackler from XR’s media team on 07918 165 046.
We will continue to stand for our right to peaceful protest but these legal challenges can cost tens of thousands, please support us by donating to our legal defence fund.
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.
- 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 emerged from 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.