A city-wide ban on Extinction Rebellion protests has been issued by the London Met Police.
Actions and demonstrations have been taking place across London for the past eight days as members and supporters of non-violent civil disobedience group Extinction Rebellion (XR) seek to get the UK Government to address the climate emergency.
Yesterday (Monday 14 October), the Met Police issued a London-wide ban on Extinction Rebellion actions – including those taking place in Trafalgar Square, which had previously been cited by police as the only legitimate protest area.
Though actions and peaceful protests have been happening all over London since 7 October as part of the two week Autumn Rebellion, climate demonstrators were continually being told to move to Trafalgar Square if they wanted to continue protesting legally.
However, on Monday evening, Extinction Rebellion members were warned to cease their demonstrations in Trafalgar Square by 9pm or face arrest, as the Met Police imposed a ban under a revised section 14 of the Public Order Act across the whole of London.
In a statement on Twitter, the London branch of Extinction Rebellion stated: “Police are clearing peaceful protest in Trafalgar and Vauxhall. They are back-tracking on promises made and, MEPs say, in contravention of UK law, in the national square.”
"This is a completely unjustified and disproportionate measure”
XR supporters are furious at the Met’s change of tack, with hundreds of people who have lawfully congregated in Trafalgar Square for the past week suddenly being told to move on swiftly or face legal action. Demonstrators were given very little warning and by 11.30pm on Monday night, only around 50 protesters remained in the area.
In a statement responding to the arrest of Green MEP, Ellie Chowns, the Green Party referred to the Section 14 Order as ‘a disproportionate response to peaceful protest and to responsible expressions of democracy at this critical time for the planet.’
Ellie Chowns herself tweeted: “Last night I was arrested in Trafalgar Square while defending the right to peaceful public protest. That right is central to a functioning democracy. Yesterday, public protest was banned throughout our capital city. This is a completely unjustified and disproportionate measure.”
Support for Extinction Rebellion has grown exponentially over the past year. The first London action took place in November 2018, where 82 activists were arrested during protests blocking five London bridges.
In April, further protests took place during the Spring Rebellion, causing major disruption in London, and in July’s Summer Uprising, coordinated protests went ahead in five UK cities – London, Cardiff, Leeds, Bristol and Glasgow.
In the most recent demonstrations, more than 1,400 arrests have taken place so far. 50 people were detained for occupying London City Airport, where protestors wanted to target the continued government support for the expansion of air travel.
An expansion costing half a billion pounds is being planned for London City Airport, where a majority of the flights taken are business trips. Extinction Rebellion says that airport expansion such as this, and the proposed third runway at Heathrow, will make it impossible for the government to meet its commitment to go net carbon neutral by 2050.
Extinction Rebellion has three demands for the UK Government:
Tell the truth about the climate and ecological emergency;
Act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025;
Set up a citizens’ assembly to decide future policy on the environment.
Though police forces have been actively clearing Trafalgar Square and other protest sites across London, it is expected that Extinction Rebellion members and environmental protesters will continue demonstrations until the government takes action on the climate emergency.