Dominic Raab criticises Diane Abbott’s ‘perverse’ defence of Extinction Rebellion newspaper blockade

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott at the launch of the Labour Party race and faith manifesto at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre, north London.

Dominic Raab has criticised Labour MP Diane Abbott for defending Extinction Rebellion's blockade of national newspaper printers on Friday and Saturday.

The foreign secretary said Abbott was "perverse" to compare the climate activist campaigners to suffragettes.

Abbott on Sunday defendedExtinction Rebellion's actions, which disrupted the distribution of several newspapers on Saturday, saying the group had employed "legal tactics".

She told Sky News: "I think it's important to remind ourselves that direct actions, which is what those actions were, are actually legal.

"These are legal tactics and we don't want to talk as if it's not illegal to take direct actions because direct action has been legal since the time of the suffragettes.

"They are protesters and activists in the tradition of the suffragettes and the hunger marchers of the 1930s."

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Protesters target printing presses
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Protesters target printing presses
One protester is lead away by police outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, other protesters use bamboo lock-ons and a van to continue to block the road. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Emergency services dismantle the bamboo lock-ons used to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
One of the protesters climbs down from the bamboo lock-ons they are using to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
One of the protesters climbs down from the bamboo lock-ons they are using to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
One of the protesters from the bamboo lock-ons is lead away by a police officer outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Emergency services use a cherry picker to attempt to remove protesters and dismantle the bamboo lock-ons they are using to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
One protester is lead away by police outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, other protesters use bamboo lock-ons and a van to continue to block the road. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
One protester is lead away by police outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, other protesters use bamboo lock-ons and a van to continue to block the road. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Police and fire services outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, protesters continue to use bamboo lock-ons and vans to block the road. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
One protester is lead away by police outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, other protesters use bamboo lock-ons and a van to continue to block the road. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Signage of the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, protesters continue to use bamboo lock-ons and a van to block the road. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Police and fire service personnel gather around a pair of protesters on top of a van used to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Two protesters use bamboo lock-ons to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Police and fire services outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, as protesters use bamboo lock-ons continue to block the road. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Two protesters use bamboo lock-ons to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Police outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. Protesters continue to use bamboo lock-ons and a van to block the road. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Police maintain a loose cordon as emergency services use a cherry picker to attempt to remove protesters and dismantle the bamboo lock-ons they are using to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
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More than 100 demonstrators used vehicles and bamboo lock-ons to block roads outside two newsprinters – one at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, the other at Knowsley near Liverpool – on Friday evening.

Both protests continued until Saturday afternoon.

Abbott's comments came as Merseyside Police on Sunday said they had charged 26 people with aggravated trespass after the Knowsley demonstration.

They are due to appear at Liverpool and Knowsley Magistrates' Court and St Helens Magistrates' Court on January 8 and 13 next year.

Hertfordshire Police said its officers had taken 50 people into custody.

Raab told Sky News on Sunday: "The idea that it is right to damage property or to intervene with free press in the name of progressive protests is perverse.

"I respect the right of peaceful protests but hijacking that with a militant agenda to disrupt the very heart of democratic debate through free media is just totally wrong and law enforcement action should be taken to preserve our wider freedoms, and they do include a free media."

The blockades prevented delivery vans from leaving presses that publish the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp titles The Sun, The Times, The Sun On Sunday and The Sunday Times, as well as The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail and Mail On Sunday.

Extinction Rebellion apologised to newsagents for the disruption but said it would not apologise to Murdoch, calling on him to "stop suppressing the truth about the climate crisis and profiting from the division your papers create".

Government sources told the PA news agency that home secretary Priti Patel wanted to take a "fresh look" at how Extinction Rebellion is classified under law after the protests, which Boris Johnson deemed "completely unacceptable".

Reacting to the blockade on Twitter, Patel said on Saturday: "This morning people across the country will be prevented from reading their newspaper because of the actions of Extinction Rebellion.

"This attack on our free press, society and democracy is completely unacceptable."

A review could lead to Extinction Rebellion being treated as an organised crime group, sources said, as part of a clampdown on its activities, which have included bringing cities across the UK to a standstill by forming human barriers along major roads and by disrupting public transport.

Under additional proposals, Parliament, courts and the press could be given special status in regard to the key role they play in democracy, with the potential for police to be handed beefed-up powers to stop demonstrators entering designated areas outside such premises.

"It would be illegal to stop MPs going to vote or judges getting to court and it would also protect a free press," a government source told PA.

Abbott's comments came a day after MPs from across the political spectrum had criticised the blockades.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick tweeted: "A good day to #buyanewspaper. A free press matters to all of us who value a free society. They mustn't be silenced by an intolerant minority."

Emily Thornberry, Labour's shadow international trade secretary, told Times Radio: "This is very worrying and I don't really know what it is that is expected to be achieved.

"I know that for many older listeners it's very much part of their daily life, getting their paper delivered in the morning, and I just think it's wrong."

Speaking to the same radio station, Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood claimed Extinction Rebellion had "lost sight... of how to campaign" on a "very important issue".

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Diane Abbott
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Diane Abbott
1986: Diane Abbott, the new labour MP for Hackney and Stoke Newington makes history today (12/6/87). Miss Abbott, 32, a Cambridge graduate and a member of Labour's hard left, becomes the country's first black woman MP. Picture taken 18/2/86 when she was an equality officer for the union ACTT. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Diane Abbott, the newly elected Labour MP for Hackney North, powders her nose at the House of Commons, London, before the State Opening of Parliament. Alongside her is Bernie Grant (centre top), the black Labour MP for Tottenham, unidentified person and Jeremy Corbyn (r). (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
BRIGHTON 1987: Some of Labour's black and Asian MPs line up with party leader Neil Kinnock on the last day of the conference. (l-r) Bernie Grant, Paul Boateng, Neil Kinnock, Keith Vaz and Diane Abbott (Britain's first black woman MP). (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
British politicians Keith Vaz and Diane Abbott at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, UK, November 1987. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
MPs Paul Boateng second left, Bernie Grant, Keith Vaz and Diane Abbott, during the debate on the creation of separate black sections within the Labour Party at the party's annual conference in Blackpool. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
British Labour politicians at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, UK, November 1987. From left to right, Bernie Grant (1944 - 2000), Paul Boateng, Neil Kinnock, Keith Vaz and Diane Abbott. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
NEWLY ELECTED NEC MEMBER DIANE ABBOTT TRIES TO GET HER VOICE HEARD DURING THE CLAUSE 4 AMENDMENT DEBATE AT THE LABOUR PARTY CONFERENCE IN BLACKPOOL. (Photo by John Giles - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Diane Abbott, Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, East London and Michael Portillo. (Photo by Jeff Overs/BBC News & Current Affairs via Getty Images)
Chairperson of the group, Diane Abbott (left) and Minister for Gun Control Caroline Flint, attend an all-party Parliamentary Group on Gun Crime at the House of Commons, London which suggested that more police officers should be armed to combat rising gun crime. The all-party Parliamentary Group said victims and witnesses of gun crime should be given better protection to encourage more to give evidence in court and said there was also a strong case for a ban on the sale, transfer and importation of imitation weapons. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Diane Abbott (right) and Keith Vaz (left) talk to a local shop worker in the London Borough of Hackney as they join members of the the Home Affairs Select Committee who walked around Hackney at midnight in response to the invitation of Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP Abbott. (Photo by Cathal McNaughton - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Labour leadership hopefuls (from the left) Diane Abbott, David Miliband, Andy Burnham, Ed Balls and Ed Miliband during the Labour Party leadership ethnic minority hustings at Soar Valley Community Centre, Leicester. (Photo by Rui Vieira/PA Images via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 28: Labour Party leadership candidate Diane Abbott poses for a portrait in The Great Hall, Parliament on June 28, 2010 in London, England. Ed Balls, David Miliband, Ed Miliband, Diane Abbott and Andy Burnham are the five candidates who have won enough backing from fellow MPs to stand in the Labour leadership election. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 09: Labour leadership candidate Dianne Abbott gives an interview as she walks near Parliament on June 9, 2010 in London, England. A ballot will be taken of Labour party, trade union members, MPs and MEPs to select the next leader of the labour party from shortlist of: Diane Abbott, Ed Balls, Andy Burnham, David Miliband and Ed Miliband. The result of the ballot is due to be announced during Labour party conference on September 25, 2010. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Diane Abbott MP, Labour Party leadership hustings, UK 2010. (Photo by: Photofusion/Pete Jones/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Diane Abbott, Labour Party MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, (C) prepares to address protesters on Whitehall outside Downing Street who are campaigning for no international military intervention in the ongoing conflict in Syria on August 28, 2013 in London, England. Prime Minister David Cameron is due to Chair a meeting of the National Security Council today before Parliament's recall tomorrow to debate the UK's response to a suspected chemical weapon attack in Syria. Diane Abbott, who voted against Britain's involvement in the Iraq War, has said that she would be forced to consider her "very difficult position" if Labour Party leader Ed Miliband were to support military action in Syria in the emergency vote due to take place in Parliament on Thursday. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 27: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is joined by Shadow Health Secretary Diane Abbott as he delivers a speech during Momentum's 'Keep Corbyn' rally outside the Houses of Parliament on June 27, 2016 in London, England. The Labour Leader has seen mass resignations from the Shadow Cabinet in the wake of the UK Vote for Brexit. His support group, Momentum, have recorded more than 1000 new members in the same period. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Labour candidate for Mayor of London 2012, Ken Livingstone speaks with Diane Abbott after attending an anti-fascism fringe meeting at the Jury's Inn Hotel, Manchester. (Photo by Dave Thompson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott Diane leaving Four Millbank in Westminster, London, following her stumbling explanation of how the party would fund its plans for 10,000 extra police in an interview that left her struggling to do the sums live on air. (Photo by Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)
(L-R) Labour's shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, shadow Home secretary Diane Abbott and Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn listens to speeches at the start of the Labour election manifesto launch in Bradford on May 16, 2017. Britain's opposition Labour Party pledged to raise taxes on the well-off, renationalise key industries and end austerity in its manifesto today, presenting voters with their starkest choice in decades in next month's election. / AFP PHOTO / Paul ELLIS (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
London Mayor Sadiq Khan (C), Home Secretary Amber Rudd (R) and Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott (L) hold flowers at Potters Fields Park in London on June 5, 2017, during a vigil to commemorate the victims of the terror attack on London Bridge and at Borough Market that killed seven people on June 3. London police made a fresh round of arrests on June 5 after the country's third terror attack in less than three months as Prime Minister Theresa May came under mounting pressure over security three days ahead of elections. The aftermath of June 3 night's rampage, which left seven dead and dozens wounded, dominated the campaign trail. / AFP PHOTO / Niklas HALLE'N (Photo credit should read NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 29: Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott speaks to show her solidarity with protesters in a vigil for Rashan Charles outside Stoke Newington Police Station in London, England on July 29, 2017, a week after the 20-year-old died whilst being arrested by police. Last night riot broke out in east London when a protest over the death of Rashan Charles descended into violence. (Photo by Isabel Infantes/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Diane Abbott with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during the Labour Party annual conference at the Brighton Centre, Brighton. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14: Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn (R) and shadow home secretary Diane Abbott arrive at St Paul's cathedral for a Grenfell Tower National Memorial service on December 14, 2017 in London, England. The Royal Family and Prime Minister will join survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire at the memorial at St Paul's Cathedral for the six-month anniversary which killed 71 people. About 1,500 people are expected to attend the multi-faith service. (Photo by Daniel Leavl-Olivas-Pool Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2018/05/14: Diane Abbott speaking to protesters in front of the British Parliament. Protesters gathered in Parliament square in central London to demand justice for the victims of the Grenfell tower fire last year. (Photo by Brais G. Rouco/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 30: Labour Party Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott speaks at a Stand Up To Racism Windrush Amnesty Demo at Parliament Square on April 30, 2018 in London, England. Residents from the Caribbean and African Commonwealth countries first arrived on the ship the HMT Empire Windrush in June 1948 and continued to do so into the 1970s. Recently many from the Windrush Generation have been asked to leave the UK or denied healthcare as they have no official documentation. The British Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, resigned over this matter when it transpired she had "inadvertently misled" parliament on the Home Office's policy on enforced returns. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 26: Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn (C) with Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott (L) and Shadow Home Secretary, John McDonnell (R) arrives to address delegates on day four of the Labour Party conference at the Arena and Convention Centre on September 26, 2018 in Liverpool, England. In his closing speech to the conference the Labour leader will promise to "kickstart a green jobs revolution" and expand the provision of free childcare should Labour win power. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 06: The Reverend Al Sharpton and Diane Abbott MP attend a dinner hosted by Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote in honour of Reverend Al Sharpton at The Groucho Club on June 6, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
Labour MP Dianne Abbott speaks to and takes questions from climate change activists from the Extinction Rebellion group at Parliament Square who are in protest that the government is not doing enough to avoid catastrophic climate change and to demand the government take radical action to save the planet, on 24th April 2019 in London, England, United Kingdom. Extinction Rebellion is a climate change group started in 2018 and has gained a huge following of people committed to peaceful protests. Diane Abbott is a British politician who has served as the Member of Parliament for Hackney North and Stoke Newington since 1987. She was the country's first black MP as well as the longest serving black MP in the House of Commons. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images Images)
Diane Abbott, Shadow Home Secretary, speaks during a visit with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (L) to Finsbury Park mosque to mark national 'Visit my Mosque Day' in London on March 3, 2019. - Now in its' fourth year, Visit My Mosque Day is a national event, with other 250 mosques taking park, opening their doors and welcoming non-Muslin guests and visitors. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 22: Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn leave the stage after she delivered her keynote speech to conference delegates on September 22, 2019 in Brighton, England. Labour return to Brighton for the 2019 conference against a backdrop of political turmoil over Brexit. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott speaks Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. (Photo by House of Commons/Jessica Taylor/PA Images via Getty Images)
Veteran actor and political activist, Vanessa Redgrave CBE (left), shows phone footage to Labour MP, Diane Abbott, at a protest for the child refugee charity, Safe Passage, in Parliament Square Westminster, on 20th January 2020, in London, England. (Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images)
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