Photograph by Chris King

News from Siân Berry: Ban on climate protest makes London look like Hong Kong

16 October 2019

Ban on climate protest makes London look like Hong Kong

Extinction Rebellion protests were effectively banned by police in London Monday night, and Tuesday morning Sian Berry questioned the Deputy Commissioner, who admitted 99.9% of protestors had behaved well.

Sian Berry asked the deputy commissioner who authorised the city-wide section 14, used to break up “any assembly linked to the Extinction Rebellion ‘Autumn Uprising’.” 

The Deputy Commissioner said: “We cannot continue to police an unlawful demonstration, I accept that 99.9 per cent has been perfectly peaceful, possibly even more than that, but that is not to say it is lawful, it is an unlawful demonstration.”

Sian Berry questioned if this was proportionate and questioned whether this was an illegal protest as police had been directing protestors to Trafalgar Square where they had been allowed to protest until 9pm Monday night.

Sian Berry AM says:

Monday night, the Met issued an order effectively banning Extinction Rebellion’s climate protest across the entire city, and on Tuesday the police were unable to answer my questions on their reasons for this draconian move.

Deputy Commissioner Sir Steve House, at the Police and Crime Committee Tuesday morning admitted that the demonstrations were incredibly peaceful and did not give a reason for why no designated area for protest was left after a Section 14 order was issued at short notice Monday night at 9pm. With this move, the right to peaceful protest has effectively been cancelled across our whole city. A blanket ban leaves people with no way to exercise their human rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

I was cut off in the police scrutiny meeting yesterday morning, but the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor have more questions to answer. Londoners need to know whether the Mayor was aware of and approved this police decision and, indeed, whether he requested it, given that Trafalgar Square is controlled by City Hall. 

All this makes London look terrible, with restrictions on freedom resembling what we are seeing in Hong Kong. It seems to me a highly political decision by the police, and not proportionate to these peaceful protests. This is a worrying precedent given the times we live in and the many reasons people may have to protest on other issues in the coming days and weeks.

Notes to editors

Sian is available for interview.

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