Socialist Worker

Victory for Extinction Rebellion as court rules that police ban on protest was ‘illegal’

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2680

Extinction Rebellions closing ceremony to mark the end of the two-week International Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion's closing ceremony to mark the end of the two-week International Rebellion (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Extinction Rebellion (XR) was vindicated in the High Court on Wednesday as judges ruled that a police order banning its International Rebellion was unlawful.

The rebellion saw thousands of rebels stage occupations, road blocks and other actions for two weeks in October across London. It was part of a global International Rebellion demanding more action to tackle climate change.

The judicial review examined the Metropolitan Police’s use of Section 14 of the Public Order Act to ban public assemblies throughout London during the rebellion. Hundreds of rebels were arrested under this power. They could sue the Met for wrongful imprisonment.

Police used Section 14 to try and stop occupations in Westminster. Their ban meant a gathering of two or more XR activists counted as an “assembly” and was in contravention of the order.

They initially used Section 14 to restrict protest to Trafalgar Square, but later moved to clear the area after “continued breaches” of the order.

Lord Justice Dingemans and Justice Chamberlain said the police action was unlawful because there “is no power to prohibit rather than merely impose conditions of gatherings that have not yet begun”.

Tobias Garnett, a human right lawyer in XR’s legal strategy team, said the group was “delighted with the court’s decision”.

“It vindicates our belief that the police’s blanket ban on our protests was an unprecedented and unlawful infringement on the right to protest,” he said.

Condemnation

The ban was met with widespread condemnation. Activists assembled in huge numbers despite the ban and a heavy-handed police presence.

Just two days after it was issued, thousands of people gathered in Trafalgar Square in a fantastic show of defiance.

Author George Monbiot was one of those arrested under the Section 14 order. He called the court judgement “a vindication of those who have sought to defend to peaceful assembly”.

Monbiot said the police had behaved in a “clearly ridiculous” manner, and “the judgment in our favour shows that the police clearly overstepped the mark”.

Heavy-handed policing from the cops shows how the state can react when ordinary people organise resistance.

It tries to curtail, limit and ultimately crush revolt. And it will use intimidation, application of laws or make up its own rules to do this.

Climate change is already having horrendous effects. The Indonesian capital city Jakarta is sinking because of rising sea levels and pollution. Some 30 million people live there.

Over a dozen wildfires swept through California in the US last week, in some areas destroying hundreds of homes.

Report after report warns that if serious action isn’t taken, the situation will get worse. Business as usual will mean more extreme weather events, threats to food crops, displacement of populations and animal extinctions.

Extinction Rebellion activists are right to demand radical action – and to defy attempts to block resistance. Everyone should join the climate movement.


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