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Arrests on Whitehall as Extinction Rebellion activists defy protest ban

Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley and climate change activist George Monbiot were among those detained during the latest day of action.

A woman is carried away by police officers during an Extinction Rebellion climate change protest in London (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
A woman is carried away by police officers during an Extinction Rebellion climate change protest in London (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

By Emily Beament, Margaret Davis and Laura Parnaby, PA

A Green Party co-leader is among the latest people to be arrested as Extinction Rebellion protesters continued to defy a police ban.

The fresh wave of arrests comes before the group’s legal bid to overturn the order will reach the High Court on Thursday afternoon.

Those bringing the action on behalf of XR, including Baroness Jenny Jones and Caroline Lucas MP, are seeking to challenge the Metropolitan Police’s blanket ban on protests across London for the rest of the week.

They argue that the order is an “unprecedented and disproportionate curtailment” of the right to free speech and free assembly which risks criminalising protest about the climate and ecological emergency in the capital, and want the High Court to rule that the decision to impose the ban is unlawful.

At the preliminary hearing, lawyers for XR will be asking for a full airing of the case to be heard as a matter of urgency.

The Met’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Laurence Taylor, who is leading the policing of the demonstrations, has insisted the order is legal.

Activists continued to defy the ban with another day of protests, which they have been staging in the capital since last Monday.

Guardian columnist and climate change activist George Monbiot joined more than 500 Extinction Rebellion activists in Trafalgar Square.

Mr Monbiot, who had written a column in Wednesday’s newspaper vowing to get arrested, was detained by police after lying down in the road at Whitehall.

During his arrest, Mr Monbiot, 56, said: “I’m here because this is the right thing to do.

“We have to stand up, we have to make a stand against the destruction of our life support systems.”

Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley was also arrested after joining climate change protesters on Whitehall.

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Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley was arrested (Green Party/PA)

Protesting on his birthday today, Mr Bartley said: “We cannot go on with HS2 destroying acres and acres of countryside.

“We cannot go on with subsidising fossil fuels, we cannot go on with our road building programme, we cannot go on even with our nuclear programmes.”

After his arrest, a Green Party spokesman said: “Climate chaos will end ecosystems and collapse our society. We have just 10 years to reduce our C02 emissions to safer levels and climate protesters are drawing attention to that.

“We all have a right to peaceful protest and we will continue to act to protect that right and draw attention to instances where democracy is threatened.”

Hundreds of activists in Trafalgar Square put black tape over their mouths, to symbolise the silencing of their protests by police.

Councillor Andree Frieze, Green Party candidate for Richmond South, who took part, said: “This symbolises the way our voices are being shut down, our voices are not being listened to.”

Elsewhere, Extinction Rebellion mothers and babies blockaded Google HQ in London over what they say are donations to climate change deniers.

Around 100 mothers and babies blockaded one side of the building by staging a mass feed-in, the group said.

In 10 days of protests to call for urgent action on climate change and wildlife losses, Extinction Rebellion activists have shut down the areas around Parliament and the Bank of England, and targeted City Airport and government departments.

The Met Police used section 14 of the Public Order Act initially to restrict the Extinction Rebellion protest action to Trafalgar Square, but following “continued breaches” of the order officers moved in to clear the area.

Any assembly of more than two people linked to the XR Autumn Uprising action is now illegal in London.

By Wednesday morning 1,642 protesters had been arrested, and 133 charged. XR’s stated tactics are to overwhelm the capacity in police custody, including by refusing bail after being arrested.

Before Wednesday’s action Mr Taylor warned activists that they would be arrested if they assembled in Trafalgar Square.

On Thursday XR activists plan to target the Tube network, which the senior officer called “unacceptable”.

He said: “That will cause huge disruption for London and we consider that wholly unacceptable, and obviously will be policing that with our partners at British Transport Police.”

A Government spokesman said: “The UK is already taking world-leading action to combat climate change as the first major economy to legislate to end our contribution to global warming entirely by 2050.

“While we share people’s concerns about global warming, and respect the right to peaceful protest, it should not disrupt people’s day-to-day lives.”

PA

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