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Extinction Rebellion protesters face arrest as police change tactics

Scotland Yard said activists were told to cease their protests by 9pm on Monday or face arrest.

Police remove an Extinction Rebellion protester from Trafalgar Square in central London.
Police remove an Extinction Rebellion protester from Trafalgar Square in central London.

By Ryan Hooper and Mike Bedigan, PA

Police have ordered climate change protesters to stop their action immediately or face arrest, in an effort to put an end to more than a week’s disruption in London.

Activists with Extinction Rebellion (XR) have been told to leave Trafalgar Square, where many have congregated lawfully since Monday last week, as police seek to expunge the protesters from the capital.

More than 1,400 people have been arrested during eight days’ XR action, with the threat that anyone defying police orders will also be detained.

In a statement on Twitter, the London branch of XR wrote: “Police are clearing peaceful protest in Trafalgar & Vauxhall. They are back-tracking on promises made &, MEPs say, in contravention of UK law, in the national square.

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A remaining Extinction Rebellion protester is spoken to by police and legal advisers in Trafalgar Square (David Mirzoeff/PA)

“This is an emergency, and an outrage. The police must respect the law. This is a democracy.”

Scotland Yard said activists were told to cease their protests by 9pm on Monday or face arrest.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said: “These conditions have been imposed due to the continued breaches of the section 14 condition previously implemented, and ongoing serious disruption to the community.

“We have made significant progress in managing Extinction Rebellion’s activity at sites across central London over this past week.

“Officers have begun the process of clearing Trafalgar Square and getting things back to normal.

“Today, protesters targeted areas in the City of London, causing further disruption to people and businesses in London’s financial district. Police made more than 90 arrests.

“Since the beginning of this operation officers have been working hard to keep London moving. There have been more than 1,400 arrests, and a number of people have been charged.

“The policing operation continues, and we will continue to take action against anyone engaged in unlawful protests at locations targeted by Extinction Rebellion.”

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Police speaking with Extinction Rebellion protesters in Trafalgar Square in central London (Scott Ainslie/PA)

Four people in a so-called peace tent, who had locked themselves together, were cut out of their locks with machinery.

Pam Williams, 71, glued herself to the spot where her tent stood as police arrived to take it.

Speaking to the PA news agency, she said: “Everyone on the site, despite being the only area of London that was free of the Section 14, was told at about 8.30pm that they had to leave by 9pm or they would be arrested. I just feel like that’s very short notice.

“I feel possibly that they’ve been approached by people we’ve upset today, maybe the finance sector or the banking sector.

“I’m refusing to leave and I’ve glued myself to the ground. My husband has taken away the tent, the police haven’t got it. I shall stay here until I’m arrested.”

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Ellie Chowns MEP after being arrested for showing solidarity with Extinction Rebellion protests (Scott Ainslie/PA)

Patrick Thelwell, 20, who has been arrested four times, and convicted once with Extinction Rebellion, said the police were getting “desperate”.

“They’re running out of police cells and resources to keep our message oppressed,” he told PA.

“We’re not here against the police, they’re just doing their job, they’re being really helpful… making sure people’s stuff doesn’t get lost.”

Ellie Chowns, a Green Party MEP, said she was arrested after “standing in solidarity” with protesters in Trafalgar Square.

She said: “We were given notice just a short time ago that this square is no longer allowable for peaceful democratic protest.

“The rules have been changed. No longer is any space in London allowable for peaceful democratic protest.

“This is intolerable. There has been no justification given. The protesters have been peaceful.

“There is no justification for this curtailment of the democratic right to protest for the future of our children.”

Fellow MEP Scott Ainslie said Ms Chowns was “singled out” by police for asking officers why Trafalgar Square needed to be cleared.

He told PA: “I turn my back for two minutes to speak with a police officer and when I get back she is being arrested.

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Trafalgar Square in central London after police removed the remaining Extinction Rebellion protesters (David Mirzoeff/PA)

“We asked the police the same thing – what has changed? Why are we now being threatened with arrest?”

Mr Ainslie said he and several supporters then travelled to Charing Cross police station, where Ms Chowns was being detained, in a show of solidarity with her.

“We are going to be singing Ode To Joy or something like that so that she can hear us supporting her.

“This whole thing is ridiculous – the protesters have not been in contravention of the law, it has been peaceful throughout.”

Police said they imposed the condition to clear Trafalgar Square under Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986.

At 11.30pm on Monday only around 50 protesters remained in Trafalgar Square and the majority of the activists’ infrastructure had been removed.

PA

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