As of Monday 14th October, the Scotland Yard has announced that all Extinction Rebellion (XR) protests must cease. The Met’s has banned all protests linked to the XR ‘Autumn Uprising’ under Section 14 of the Public Order Act. Since then, the police have cleared infrastructure from protest sites such as Trafalgar square and Vauxhall. Several were arrested the night where the ban was announced, including Green Party MEP Ellie Chowns.
Professor David Mead, a specialist in UK Human Rights Law, has suggested the move could contradict both European and British law. The ban has also been called unlawful by Amnesty International, the world’s leading human rights organization, and the legitimacy of arrests has been questioned by law experts, as over 1,600 arrests have been made.
The decision to ban XR protests has caused public uproar and was met with widespread criticism. Politicians, human rights groups and leading environmental figures have condemned the ban. Adam Wagner, a Human rights lawyer has called the Metropolitan Police’s ban ‘draconian and extremely heavy-handed’. Greta Thunberg has encouraged protestors to defy the city-wide ban, on her Instagram, she wrote “If standing up against the climate and ecological breakdown and for humanity is against the rules then the rules must be broken.” The Extinction Rebellion has also encouraged protestors to defy the ban, the releases a statement saying: “Following the decision to ban peaceful protest in London, we are calling on everyone to assemble in Trafalgar Square to defend our civil liberties.”
The ban has faced huge backlash and the public is in defiance. Although Trafalgar Square had previously been cleared of its infrastructure and protestors on Monday. As of Wednesday, protesters have returned to Trafalgar square in defiance of the ruling. According to Extinction Rebellion, approximately 5,000 protesters were prepared to be arrested for the cause. At another protest site, at Whitehall, Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley and climate activist George Monbiot have been arrested for joining Extinction Rebellion protests there.
Other protests after the ban includes protests in front of Google HQ. Over 100 mothers gathered, many bringing their babies. The protest against Google was sparked by a Guardian investigation which discovered that google has been funding organisations that actively questions the need for action on the climate crisis or organisations that campaigns against environmental legislation. Youths have also been protesting at YouTube space. Some climbed on top of the YouTube space, a letter was delivered to YouTube’s employees calling for an end to video content that promotes climate change denial. On Thursday there is also plans to target London Underground and disrupt transport on Thursday.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has said that he was not aware of the decision to ban XR protests. In a statement from twitter he said, “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.” He also declared: “I’ve met with senior officers today to seek further information on why they deemed this necessary.”
The leaders of the XR movement have declared that they are planning to launch legal action to combat the ban. As of Wednesday, the Lawyers for XR have been at the High Court to apply for a judicial review of the ban, amid claims that the order is not legal and breaches the right to protest.
Overall, it is very clear that the ban is facing great resistance. It is very clear that people will not give up this important cause. It is also apparent, that the public is appalled by this intervention, which is also considered disproportionate to the action of the protestors. The injustice of this ban is particularly upsetting, as in the UK people have always had the right to protest peacefully, the crackdown on peaceful protests is reminiscent of governments with terrible human rights track records. There will be a lot of tension between protestors and the police over the coming weeks, as neither side wants to back down. Furthermore, there will be intense legal battles in court, as the legality of the ban is put into question.