is the police's ban on extinction rebellion protests even legal?
Several hundred peaceful protestors have been arrested across the city over the past few days.
Extinction Rebellion are now subject to a city-wide ban on their demonstrations against climate change, according to the London Metropolitan Police. On Monday night, the police cited Section 14 of the 1986 Public Order Act when they began clearing Trafalgar Square of protestors, threatening to arrest anyone who didn’t follow their orders.
Last night on Twitter, the London branch of the climate protest group wrote: "Police are clearing peaceful protests in Trafalgar and Vauxhall. They are back-tracking on promises made. This is an emergency, and an outrage. The police must respect the law. This is a democracy."
But despite the police's best efforts, it looks like the group plans to continue their ongoing International Rebellion protest in the country’s capital regardless. Just this morning, Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of XR, was arrested after climbing on top of a building doorway at the Department for Transport. Before her arrest, Bradbrook explained that the action was done to hold the Department for Transport accountable to their promise to achieve a net-zero emissions target, despite going ahead with environmentally harmful plans such as the HS2 project. The activist said: “I do this in the spirit of what Emmeline Pankhurst called the noble art of window smashing.”
But how legal is the Met’s ban on XR protests in the first place?
Conditions under Section 14 are meant to describe a situation in which a “senior police officer present reasonably believes that any public assembly may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community” or if “the purpose of the person organising is the intimidation of others”, which still doesn’t make sense if you consider that all the majority of Extinction Rebellion are doing is holding a peaceful public protest. One guy even got cuffed on Oxford Street while dressed like a stick of broccoli. The entire thing is deranged.
Several public figures have already questioned the validity of the ban, especially given how unexpectedly it was implemented. Speaking to the Guardian, Keith Blowe, the coordinator for Netpol (the Network for Police Monitoring) said he believes that the ban “has to be open to some form of potential legal challenge”, in addition to commenting that such a restriction must be “made by the home secretary”.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is currently looking into the necessity of the ban’s imposition “from senior officers”: “I believe the right to peaceful and lawful protest must always be upheld,” he said in a statement. “However, illegal action by some protestors over the past eight days has put undue pressure on already overstretched police officers, and demonstrators should bear this in mind when considering any further actions.”
One question: Where was this oppressive energy for right wing, racist protestors?