By Sarah Bates
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Extinction Rebellion activists defy police ban on protests

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Issue 2677
Extinction Rebellion activists hold a mass meeting in Trafalgar Square despite a police ban
Extinction Rebellion activists hold a mass meeting in Trafalgar Square despite a police ban (Pic: Socialist Worker)

A defiant mood swept through central London on Wednesday as Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists took to the streets despite a police crackdown.

Rebels took part in direct action throughout the city, with at least 1,000 people gathering in Trafalgar Square to discuss the next steps for the International Rebellion.

Hundreds of people also rallied outside the London headquarters of Rupert Murdoch’s News UK to demand media firms “tell the truth” about the climate catastrophe.

And XR Youth protested at the YouTube offices in Kings Cross, to highlight how the video site promotes and profits off hosting climate-denying content.

The Met police force surprised activists on Monday night by implementing what effectively amounted to a London-wide ban for XR protests.

Celebrate the climate movement - and join it
Celebrate the climate movement – and join it
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The “Section 14” notice banned “any assembly linked to the Extinction Rebellion ‘Autumn Uprising’.”

Police evicted rebels from the last remaining occupations—at Trafalgar Square and a park in Vauxhall—with little or no notice.

Despite the ban, activists rallied and marched to Trafalgar Square on Tuesday, which just days earlier had been the site of a bustling XR community.

And the repression meant some rebels were joining XR on the streets for the first time.

Beth was holding a placard that said, “Banning peaceful protests is like banning fire alarms”.

“I’ve not been involved in anything with XR before now but because of the ban I felt like it’s the start of very bad things, so I felt like I had to be here,” she told Socialist Worker.

Lucy said she had joined the mobilisation in Trafalgar Square because the “outrageous” ban made the demo “the most important one”.

“The ban should definitely motivate people, and motivate XR to work even harder, because it makes you realise we’re really making an impact and it is doing something,” she said.

Author George Monbiot was arrested on Whitehall, alongside Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley.

Monbiot said, “We stand here not just to protect the life support system but to protect the right of the freedom to protest.”

A host of speakers underlined how the Met’s crackdown could have a chilling effect on the right to take to the streets.

Asad Rehman, director of charity War on Want, said, “This is the biggest fight we face and we fight for all of humanity.

“We have to fight for our right to protest and to speak truth to power.”

Extinction Rebellion—a carnival of resistance on London’s streets
Extinction Rebellion—a carnival of resistance on London’s streets
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A huge “people’s assembly” was held in Trafalgar Square, with rebels splitting up into small groups to debate the next steps.

They were asked to consider “how do we respond to the silence of the government, in the face of the attempt by the Metropolitan police to silence people?”

Molly said she joined the people’s assembly because “I wanted to be one more number in a collective. If everyone did that it would really make a difference.

“I’m going to get involved more in the future because you can’t just put it down to other people doing their best. It also takes a joint effort from absolutely everyone.”

Police had arrested 1,642 XR protesters between Monday last week—when the rebellion began—and 8am this Wednesday morning. That figure expected to rise over the next few days.

Activists are planning a host of activities that target the weapons industry, government departments and Gatwick Airport.

XR is seeking a judicial review into the implementation of the Section 14 legislation and is set to appear in the High Court on Thursday afternoon.

Its legal team is set to argue that the blanket ban is an “unprecedented and disproportionate curtailment of the right to free speech and free assembly”.

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