it’s official: british police broke the law by arresting extinction rebellion protesters
The Royal Courts of Justice confirmed it this morning.
If you live in London or switched on the news a few weeks ago, you would have witnessed the dystopian sight of Extinction Rebellion protestors being arrested en masse around the capital. It didn’t matter if you were being peaceful (or even, as in the case of this one dude, dressed up as a broccoli), the Metropolitan Police force had implemented a four day, city-wide ban on any public displays of activism.
It was an attempt to curb what the environmentalist group called ‘the Autumn Uprising’: ten days of protests to bring London to a standstill, and force those in power to recognise and respond to the climate disaster. But for the Met Police, it backfired -- even those not siding with the protesters pointed out that the act seemed unlawful, an abuse of power and a clear violation of their civil rights. So XR took them to court. This morning, we found out they won.
Over 1,800 people were arrested over the four day period, with more than 150 being formally charged. Now the Met Police have to reckon with charges of unlawful imprisonment for hundreds of protesters. Big yikes.
‘Section 14’ is the part of UK law that gives the police the right to ‘direct’ protests to a certain area of a city, to stop it spreading and causing disruption. It’s what the Met had implemented ahead of the Autumn Uprising, but essentially, the XR protesters won the case because the Met failed to stick to the conditions of the act. Lord Justice Dingemans, who made the final decision, said that "separate gatherings, separated both in time and by many miles, even if co-ordinated under the umbrella of one body, are not a public assembly within the meaning of... the Act.” He added that "the XR Autumn Uprising intended to be held October 14 - 19 was not therefore a public assembly... therefore the decision to impose the condition was unlawful because there was no power to impose it under... the Act."
Now it’s been considered unlawful, it’s likely that Extinction Rebellion will attempt to sue the Met Police. But will it be straightforward? Unlikely. As with all things the group put into action, expect it to be spun into a headline-grabbing stunt that will turn our attention to the bigger problem at hand: the world is still on fire.
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.