Arrests on Whitehall as Extinction Rebellion activists defy protest ban


A Green Party co-leader is among the latest people to be arrested as Extinction Rebellion protesters continued to defy a police ban.

The Metropolitan Police’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Laurence Taylor, who is leading the policing of the demonstrations, has insisted the ban on Extinction Rebellion Autumn Uprising climate change protests is legal.

But lawyers for XR were at the High Court on Wednesday to apply for a judicial review of the ban amid claims that the order is not legal and breaches the right to protest.

And activists continued to defy the ban with another day of protests, which they have been staging in the capital since last Monday.

Guardian columnist and climate change activist George Monbiot joined more than 500 Extinction Rebellion activists in Trafalgar Square.

Mr Monbiot was arrested by police after lying down in the road at Whitehall.

During his arrest, Mr Monbiot, 56, said: “I’m here because this is the right thing to do.

“We have to stand up, we have to make a stand against the destruction of our life support systems.”

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Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley was also arrested after joining climate change protesters on Whitehall.

Protesting on his birthday today, Mr Bartley said: “We cannot go on with HS2 destroying acres and acres of countryside.

“We cannot go on with subsidising fossil fuels, we cannot go on with our road building programme, we cannot go on even with our nuclear programmes.”

After his arrest, a Green Party spokesman said: “Climate chaos will end ecosystems and collapse our society. We have just 10 years to reduce our C02 emissions to safer levels and climate protesters are drawing attention to that.

“We all have a right to peaceful protest and we will continue to act to protect that right and draw attention to instances where democracy is threatened.”

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Hundreds of activists in Trafalgar Square put black tape over their mouths, to symbolise the silencing of their protests by police.

Councillor Andree Frieze, Green Party candidate for Richmond South, who took part, said: “This symbolises the way our voices are being shut down, our voices are not being listened to.”

Elsewhere, Extinction Rebellion mothers and babies blockaded Google HQ in London over what they say are donations to climate change deniers.

Around 100 mothers and babies blockaded one side of the building by staging a mass feed-in, the group said.

In 10 days of protests to call for urgent action on climate change and wildlife losses, Extinction Rebellion activists have shut down the areas around Parliament and the Bank of England, and targeted City Airport and government departments.

The Met Police used section 14 of the Public Order Act initially to restrict the Extinction Rebellion protest action to Trafalgar Square, but following “continued breaches” of the order officers moved in to clear the area.

Any assembly of more than two people linked to the XR Autumn Uprising action is now illegal in London.

By Wednesday morning 1,642 protesters had been arrested, and 133 charged. XR’s stated tactics are to overwhelm the capacity in police custody, including by refusing bail after being arrested.

Before Wednesday’s action Mr Taylor warned activists that they would be arrested if they assembled in Trafalgar Square.

On Thursday XR activists plan to target the Tube network, which the senior officer called “unacceptable”.

He said: “That will cause huge disruption for London and we consider that wholly unacceptable, and obviously will be policing that with our partners at British Transport Police.

“It will cause a huge impact to London and all the commuters and everybody using the Underground network. Obviously we will be policing that proactively and robustly.”

Julian Thompson, from XR, said: “We have been on the streets to demand that the Government produces a plan to deal with the climate and ecological emergency.

“At a time when it’s more important than ever to peacefully assemble and protest on these emergencies, we are now at risk of being silenced by the authorities.”‘

A Government spokesman said: “The UK is already taking world-leading action to combat climate change as the first major economy to legislate to end our contribution to global warming entirely by 2050.

“While we share people’s concerns about global warming, and respect the right to peaceful protest, it should not disrupt people’s day-to-day lives.”