Liberty have warned that the right to peaceful protest in the UK is under threat with pre-emptive police measures and “unworkable restrictions” taken against demonstrators.
The civil liberties group say forceful and “heavy-handed” police tactics and arrests are being used to “deter us from exercising our rights” as environmental protestors continue their 10 days of civil disobedience and disruption in London and around the UK.
Police arrested five people last week – including one of the co-founder s of Extinction Rebellion, Roger Hallam (54) – days before the planned XR ‘uprising’. Hallam is being held for four weeks and was charged with conspiracy to cause criminal damage last Tuesday (August 25), along with the four others.
Hallam helped to form XR in 2017 but has since withdrawn from the group and earlier this year established a new direct-action group called Beyond Politics. All five arrested and charged are members of the new organisation and a spokesman said they have started an “indefinite hunger strike against the injustice of their imprisonment”.
More than 200 climate campaigners have been arrested so far this week and the Metropolitan police have issued restrictions on protests under section 14 of the Public Order Act.
‘Right to protest’ being reframed as ‘public nuisance’
“Despite the fact the police have a duty to facilitate protest, recent weeks have seen unworkable restrictions, fines and arrests all used to deter us from exercising our rights,” said Liberty’s interim director Gracie Bradley. “These restrictions are heavy-handed and go too far.”
Bradley added: “These tactics are not new but they are damaging as they undermine our right to protest by reframing it as a public nuisance.
“Peaceful protest is a core pillar of any healthy democracy, and it is vital it is protected whatever the cause.”
The Guardian report that the Met “declined to comment” and instead directed the newspaper to a statement on its website which explains the restrictions have been imposed because the protest could “result in serious disruption to the life of the community.”
Cummings’ Cabinet Office recruit sacked for urging police to shoot BLM protestors
Liberty’s warning follows news that emerged yesterday that a Whitehall official “with a senior role at the Cabinet Office” was sacked for posting comments on social media saying that police should shoot Black Lives Matter (BLM) protestors.
Will O’Shea (57), a data specialist hired after Dominic Cumming’s call for “weirdos and misfits” to join the civil service, tweeted on July 5 – at the height of the BLM protests following the killing of George Floyd and following “an altercation between police and anti-racism protestors – “Time to get out the live rounds.”
O’Shea’s dismissal follows that of another of Cumming’s recruits, Andrew Sabisky who was sacked in February for racist, sexist comments and for supporting eugenics.
XR activists glue themselves to Westminster streets
Extinction Rebellion’s 10 day uprising has so far been largely focused around Westminster with activists today gluing themselves to the street outside parliament and the Independent reporting that the police have made several arrests.
XR member Nuala Gathercole Lam told the newspaper “We will continue to cause disruption to parliament until serious action is taken following their declaration of emergency over a year ago.
“Their own advisors said in June that they are neglecting even their own inadequate targets, with only four of 21 indicators on track and only two of 31 milestones reached. If I got that kind of performance evaluation I’d be out of a job.
“Everything we love is at stake so we’re here until they act.”
‘Time to stand up and expose the lies of climate change deniers’ – Stephen Fry
‘National treasure’ Stephen Fry voiced his support for the campaign and urged people “to stand up and expose the lies” of “this deliberate climate denial stand” and to show their support for the XR group Writers Rebel.
“It’s sickening how much money is being spent on think tanks and professional lobbyists to spread confusion, lies and doubt on the subject of man-made climate change and its horribly real threat,” said Fry.
“These people, and their huge corporations funding them, are utilising exactly the same playbook that big tobacco used to sow doubt and confusion over the clear scientific evidence that emerged about smoking.”