XR protest ban 'draconian' and 'unlawful'

Human rights lawyer Adam Wagner called the Metropolitan Police ban on all further protest by XR in London 'draconian and extremely heavy-handed'.

'Labour support the law breakers'. 

Extinction Rebellion activists are launching legal action against the police over a London-wide ban on their protests.

The move comes amid growing criticism of the ban, made under public order legislation already used to restrict the action to Trafalgar Square.

Activists continued protests in the capital in defiance of the police order, targeting the Department for Transport and locking themselves to a caravan on Millbank, prompting more arrests.

Necessary

Human rights lawyer Tobias Garnett, working for Extinction Rebellion, said the group would be filing a High Court claim challenging the ban on the grounds it is "disproportionate and unlawful".

The group was planning to file a claim on Tuesday afternoon, and was seeking an expedited hearing.

On Tuesday evening, Mayor Sadiq Khan - who oversees the Metropolitan Police, said he had asked officers to find a way for those who wanted to protest to be able to do so legally and peacefully.

He said he had "received assurances that Extinction Rebellion are not banned from protesting in our city", adding: "Neither I nor the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime was informed before the Metropolitan Police took the operational decision to impose a Section 14 order on Extinction Rebellion Autumn Uprising last night.

"I've met with senior officers today to seek further information on why they deemed this necessary."

Unacceptable 

Mr Garnett said the police order limiting protests "risks criminalising anyone who wants to protest in any way about the climate and ecological emergency that we face".

Under the current order, any assembly - classed as a gathering of two or more people - linked to the Extinction Rebellion 'Autumn Uprising' in London is unlawful.

Lawyers have questioned the legality of ban, aimed at halting further protests after more than a week of disruption by the environmental activists in London, while a number of politicians expressed outrage over the move.

Responding to the ban, teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted: "If standing up against the climate and ecological breakdown and for humanity is against the rules then the rules must be broken."

Protect

Anti-Brexit barrister Jo Maugham QC claimed the move was a "huge overreach" of police powers, human rights lawyer Adam Wagner called it "draconian and extremely heavy-handed", and Allan Hogarth from Amnesty International said it was "unacceptable".

Jeremy Corbyn, speaking about the London-wide ban of Extinction Rebellion protesters by police on Monday night, said: "Concerns have been expressed about this.

"Diane Abbott and Richard Burgon are contacting the Metropolitan Police to discuss this, as indeed Sadiq Khan has as the Mayor of London.

"I think it's important to protect the right of free speech, and the right to demonstrate in our society - obviously in a non-violent way."

The Labour leader said Mr Khan had no involvement in the "operational decision" by police to remove the protesters.

Risk

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: "This ban is completely contrary to Britain's long-held traditions of policing by consent, freedom of speech, and the right to protest."

Green Party MEP Ellie Chowns, who was arrested in Trafalgar Square, Green MP Caroline Lucas and shadow policing and crime minister Louise Haigh also spoke out against the move.

But Home Secretary Priti Patel backed the police in a tweet, saying: "Officers from around the country have done a fantastic job policing XR protests. Supporting our Police is vital.

"Labour support the law breakers who have disrupted the lives and businesses of Londoners. They cannot be trusted in Downing Street or the Home Office."

Police moved in to clear Trafalgar Square on Monday evening, telling protesters to leave the site by 9pm or risk arrest.

Location

On Tuesday, Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said the protest ban was brought in after "continued breaches" of the condition limiting the demonstration to Trafalgar Square.

He said: "I want to be absolutely clear, the conditions put in place yesterday afternoon do not in any way ban protests from London, nor do they ban the activities of Extinction Rebellion as a group.

"These conditions specifically state that any assembly linked to Extinction Rebellion's 'Autumn Uprising' must now cease.

"The decision to impose further conditions was made in order to help us get London moving again. It is a lawful decision which we felt is entirely proportionate and reasonable to impose after nine days of sustained, unlawful assembly and protest by Extinction Rebellion."

The Met said that using Section 14 to limit the location and duration of protest action was "not unusual".

Arrested

Extinction Rebellion activists defied the order and on Tuesday morning, the group's co-founder, Gail Bradbrook, was arrested after action to target the Department for Transport in Westminster over HS2 and airport expansion.

Police also dealt with a road block near Baker Street and told a number of protesters camped in Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens to move on or risk arrest.

Protesters locked themselves to a caravan parked by Millbank tower in central London, with police spending more than two hours trying to free them using electric saws.

The protest outside the MI5 headquarters aimed to highlight the issue of food security.

Ilya Fisher, a fine art photographer from Cornwall, said she was taking part despite never having been arrested before.

Highway

She said: "I'm doing this because I want other people to see 'why is such a boring ordinary person doing this?' and they will look into the climate science.

"The government isn't protecting us. If we wait until 2050 for the carbon emissions to be reduced it's way too late."

By Tuesday afternoon, police said 1,489 people had been arrested in connection with the "Autumn Uprising".

And 92 people had been charged for offences including failing to comply with a condition imposed under Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986, criminal damage, and obstruction of a highway.

These Authors

Emily Beament, Margaret Davis and Tom Pilgrim are reporters with PA.

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