Outrage as Police Order a Total Ban on Extinction Rebellion Protests in London
Any assembly of two or more people linked to the climate group is now illegal.
"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
It’s a quote often misattributed to Mahatma Gandhi; as a stubborn declaration that triumph edges ever closer.
The mantra has also been repeated by Extinction Rebellion recently as evidence that their strategy for demanding climate justice is working.
All over the world, the movement’s activists have faced a crackdown from law enforcement in response to their radical direct action — and in London, police have gone a step further: a total ban on all demonstrations across the city linked to the environmental group.
Late on Monday evening, London’s Metropolitan Police issued a revised Section 14 Notice — a direction under the Public Order Act that allows them to impose conditions on public protest — that banned “any assembly linked to the Extinction Rebellion ‘autumn uprising’.” In this instance, “assembly” means a public gathering of two or more people.
Immediately, police moved in to clear the camp set up over the past week in Trafalgar Square. But — given that many of the movement’s members are more than willing to risk arrest — there were no plans to cease the campaign of disruption and civil disobedience over the course of the week.
There have been 1,642 arrests made in the capital so far — already far more than the April protests in which over 1,000 people were arrested.
In a series of Extinction Rebellion training inductions in Trafalgar Square on Saturday evening, activists were reminded that the Section 14 order only applies to you if you’re aware of it — and were advised to plead ignorance if police attempted to use it against them.
A human rights lawyer representing the group has launched legal action against the ban, calling it “disproportionate and unlawful.” Meanwhile, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has urged the police to allow protesters to continue demonstrating, claiming he was not informed of the ban before it was announced.
“Those making the decisions around this need to realise that we are a peaceful organisation and that there is not a security solution to this,” said Ronan McNern, an Extinction Rebellion representative. “The climate and ecological crisis is here and it cannot be addressed by tougher policing.”
Protests continue around the UK and in countries across the world.
Vigil in Trafalgar Square to mark the removal of the right of rebels to peaceful assembly.— Extinction Rebellion London (@XRLondon) October 15, 2019
This is a civil disobedience movement, but comparatively few rebels can risk arrest.
Most rebels use their presence to demand the government protect us.
9pm 15 Oct#ExtinctionRebellionpic.twitter.com/I2UjPVKuZn
Amazing photo of all the baby rebels at yesterday's XR Nurse-In. We're occupying London for today's children and those yet unborn, who will have to live with the consequences of the climate crisis. Their future is in our hands. #ExtinctionRebellionpic.twitter.com/XRgdapbyUS— Extinction Rebellion Bristol 🛑🏗️ (@XRBristol) October 10, 2019
Extinction Rebellion also has another saying: “We are all crew.” It’s in this vein that autonomous subsections of the movement have led a vast variety of different actions all over the city, in a continuing network of collaboration and support.
On Tuesday, activists flooded London’s financial sector, gluing themselves to building entrances including the Bank of England and Barclays. Some shut down the Walkie Talkie skyscraper dressed as canaries, inspired by the President of Ireland’s famous words describing the degradation of the planep that “if we were miners we would be up to our knees in dead canaries.”
Meanwhile, a group of pensioners called Extinction Rebellion Grandparents has gathered outside Buckingham Palace in what has been called "not a protest or an action, but a family friendly photo". Many of the elderly attendees reportedly accepted responsibility for their generation’s part in causing the climate crisis.
"It's our generation that is partly responsible for the fate that will befall our grandchildren," said Peter Cole, 75. "So it behoves us to do the least we can to try and help them."
There are also plans this week to demonstrate against social media firms, for what protesters have described as their role in disseminating misinformation about the climate crisis; to take action to protest the carbon footprint of the British military; and to continue shutting down government departments across Whitehall while delivering speeches and talks.
All of this is in direct opposition to the orders as set out by the police. The ban has been widely condemned by people who have maintained that campaigners must have the right to protest peacefully.
I live in a city where you are no longer allowed to protest for action on the climate crisis while two million inhabitants are breathing in illegal levels of air pollution.— Jenny Stevens (@jenny_stevens) October 15, 2019
Thread on today's really disturbing announcement by the Met that the peaceful Extinction Rebellion protests are now illegal. Banning peaceful protest is one of those moments where you go, "What is happening to our country?" https://t.co/6cAhsls8z1— Caitlin Moran (@caitlinmoran) October 15, 2019
Whether you believe in Extinction Rebellion’s cause or not, this ban is an infringement on our right to peaceful protest. https://t.co/QLOPm6BBmr— Jonathan Pie (@JonathanPieNews) October 15, 2019
One of the key demands of Extinction Rebellion’s April protests in London was to get Britain to declare a climate emergency. With that achieved, the group now has three more demands to make to the UK government.
Firstly, the group says, the government must tell the truth about its plans to act on that previous declaration. Then it must act by committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025 — 25 years earlier than the current legally binding target of 2050.
Finally, Extinction Rebellion demands that a Citizen Assembly is created immediately, bringing together ordinary people to respond to the climate crisis in a similar vein to jury service.